Judge: Al­low Pulse killer’s widow to be free on bond

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Malaika Fra­ley

A fed­eral judge agreed Wed­nes­day to re­lease the wife of the Or­lando, Fla., night­club killer on “strict con­di­tions,” but is­sued a 48-hour stay so pros­e­cu­tors can ap­peal to a Flor­ida judge.

Noor Zahi Salman, 30, of Rodeo, Calif., will be re­leased on a $500,000 bond and will be “es­sen­tially on house ar­rest,” if the Flor­ida judge backs the re­lease or­der. She will be tried in Flor­ida, where she was charged.

“The Flor­ida court has the right to come to a dif­fer­ent de­ci­sion,” U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Donna Ryu said of the re­lease.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors de­scribed Salman as “cal­cu­lat­ing and cal­lous,” say­ing she knew her hus­band planned a ter­ror at­tack on the night­club last sum­mer and did noth­ing to stop it.

She went on three trips to check pos­si­ble at­tack sites and told FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tors she had seen her hus­band watch­ing vi­o­lent ji­hadist videos in front of their young son, and even heard him say “This is the day,” be­fore he left to carry out the at­tack at the Pulse night­club, pros­e­cu­tors said at Wed­nes­day’s de­ten­tion hear­ing, ar­gu­ing to keep Salman be­hind bars.

“He walks out with a gun and a back­pack full of ammo. There can’t be a doubt in her mind that he’s go­ing to carry out an at­tack,” As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Sara Sweeney said.

Omar Ma­teen, 29, who de­clared his al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State, was killed by SWAT of­fi­cers af­ter he killed 49 peo­ple and wounded more than 50 oth­ers at the night­club on June 12, 2016. It was the dead­li­est at­tack in mod­ern times in­volv­ing a sin­gle gun­man and the dead­li­est tar­get­ing the LGBTQ com­mu­nity in the U.S.

Salman is fac­ing life in prison on charges that she aided her hus­band in a ter­ror­ist at­tack and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

De­fense at­tor­neys said Wed­nes­day that Salman is be­ing scape­goated by the gov­ern­ment for hor­rific crimes com­mit­ted by her hus­band. They de­scribed her as a for­mer spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dent with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties who was phys­i­cally and men­tally abused by Ma­teen and who lived an iso­lated life fo­cused on their young son.

“What we heard to­day was the case against Omar Ma­teen. This was not a case against Noor Salman,” de­fense at­tor­ney Linda Moreno said. “The gov­ern­ment laid out a the­o­ret­i­cal, ex­tremely thin pros­e­cu­tion case against Noor that was based on spec­u­la­tion, based on state­ments they claim she made dur­ing an 18-hour in­ter­ro­ga­tion that was con­ducted with­out coun­sel.

“We frankly ex­pected more,” Moreno said of the pros­e­cu­tion’s ev­i­dence. “We now know there is no more to this case.”

Salman, who moved to her fam­ily’s home in Cal­i­for­nia af­ter the at­tack, has been on sui­cide watch since she was ar­rested Jan. 16. Dressed in a red jail jump­suit and wear­ing her hair in braids, she spent the hear­ing tak­ing notes and pass­ing them to her at­tor­ney with a trem­bling hand. At times, she silently cried and wiped tears.

CHRIS O’MEARA / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS 2016

Au­thor­i­ties search the Pulse night­club in Or­lando, Fla., af­ter a mass shoot­ing last June. A fed­eral judge has agreed to re­lease the killer’s wife on “strict con­di­tions,” but is­sued a stay so that pros­e­cu­tors can ap­peal to a Flor­ida judge.

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