Sunday, March 18, 2018

Prosecutor's Opening Statement in the Noor Salman Case

There is some sensitive content and disturbing details included within. If you feel you may be affected, please do not read this post.

Case notes by Pam Schwartz

When I arrived early to secure my spot for the opening day of Noor Salman’s case, I was the ninth person in line and the 8th public member let in as per my blue public identifying slip of paper. As we began to be seated in the room, the prosecution, defense, and defendant were already all seated. Twelve boxes of paperwork and evidence were lined up next to the prosecution in front of the jury box.

James Mandolfo began his opening statement for the prosecution (statements as given by prosecution, may or may not be actual fact as revealed by the court hearing and jury deliberation). He began with a verbal illustration of Bobby Rodriguez being locked in a bathroom stall with Orlando Torres, when somebody who had been shot tried to crawl in with them unde the bathroom stall. Bobby tried to play dead for nearly three hours under the body of that person who died while Omar Mateen was hiding from police in the bathroom and terrorizing victims trapped inside with him.

Mandolfo claimed Noor knew that her husband Omar Mateen would do this, and that she gave him the “green light”, they had spent thousands of dollars in preparation for this night. Noor
aided and abetted Mateen with his plan to support ISIS. He said that she knowingly obstructed justice. Every step taken was a step to help him with his plan, and every step after was an obstruction of justice. As part of the trial we would hear from FBI Agents, law enforcement, witnesses, experts on terrorism, and people who had communicated with Mateen within the weeks before the shooting. We would see bank statements, receipts, GPS data, cell phone information, laptop information, and more during the case.

May 22, 2016 Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a spokesperson for ISIS called for attacks in America during Ramadan. Omar watched the footage on June 4, 2016 just 8 days before the Pulse Nightclub attack. Mateen referred to himself as an Islamic soldier for ISIS. At 2:00 am on June 12, 2016 right before he entered the club and began shooting, he posted on Facebook that America and Russia needed to stop bombing the middle east and that he supported ISIS.

While inside the club Mateen stated that he had help, that there were bombs, and that there would be more attacks. While attacking, his SIG Sauer MCX assault rifle jammed, he also had a Glock handgun as a back up. He was finally killed by police at 5:14 AM. At the time the FBI was busy looking for co-conspirators, researching possible ongoing attacks, and helping victims and survivors who had been shot multiple times. 

Lieutenant William Hall was dispatched with his team of officers to go to Mateen’s apartment in Port St. Lucie, he was warned that there could be possible booby traps and explosives. At 5:45 AM Special Agent Christopher Mayo of FBI came to the apartment and initially talked to Salman in Hall's police car in the parking lot of the building before taking her and her son to an FBI building at 7:15 am. 

The prosecution listed several ways they felt Salman attempted to mislead law enforcement, thus obstructing justice. Law enforcement had not told her of the shooting in Orlando at a gay nightclub. When asked if her husband had enemies? She replied that he likes homosexuals and he likes America. When asked why she brought up homosexuals? She said he likes homosexuals because both homosexuals and Muslims are discriminated against. When asked about their ideology? She stated that she and Mateen were moderate but later stated that he was an extremist and had started wanting to commit Jihad. She stated he only had one pistol but that he didn’t have it with him, but later said that he had multiple weapons and ammo when he left the house. She said he had deactivated his Facebook account several years earlier and that he didn’t use the Internet at home, later she said he would watch violent Jihady materials daily. When asked why at the age of 30 she had just gotten her driver’s license for the first time? She started to say, “God rest his soul” and corrected with “God bless his soul” though the FBI had not yet told her that her husband had been killed. The FBI felt she had given a staged answer: that Mateen couldn’t have died because he had just bought them all plane tickets to go to California to see her family the next month and he had just paid all of the bills, she had even just gotten him a father’s day gift.

At 11:00 AM Ricardo Enriquez, a polygraph examiner from Miami, was called in. A polygraph was cancelled the next day and never conducted though she had consented to doing one. Though Noor's statements were not recorded by video or audio, he said she stated the following... She was asked if there was any evidence Mateen would do it. She told him Mateen had been viewing Jihady material every day and that at some points she had to pull her son away as it was so violent.

They had been on several trips lately. Together they went to City Place in West Palm Beach and Mateen had asked her, “How bad would it be if a club got attacked?” They went to Disney Springs and Mateen disappeared for 20 minutes, came back and asked, “What would make people more upset? An attack at a club or an attack at Disney?” She said she had asked him about the rifle in his trunk and he said that is was for work. 

On June 11, 2016, the day before the shooting, they went on a spending spree to Kay Jewelers, Victoria Secret, they also got ammo and a rifle. Mateen had recently added her as the beneficiary of his checking and savings accounts, giving her $1,000 in cash. She stated that her husband left home at 5:00 pm on June 11, 2016 and was going to see his childhood friend Nemo for dinner, to go to the Mosque to pray, and then come home and that he left with guns and black bag full of ammo. Enriquez asked her questions and wrote down the answers for her to review and initial in agreement. Then she chose to write a separate statement in her own hand that stated that she was sorry and that she wished she could go back to be able to tell his family and the police what was going to happen.

In another statement, Salman said Mateen had been talking about committing Jihady for several years and that she saw his buying guns and going to shooting ranges as a “green light.” He texted her at 4 am and she knew he had done it. Mr. Mandolfo stated that the evidence will show where and when they were as they made plans leading up to the shooting, as well as her encouragement and support of it. Mateen had been investigated several years earlier by FBI because of extremist comments to a co-worker. 

On May 31, 2016 Mateen and Salman went to a Walmart in Vero Beach and he bought 200 rounds of ammo for what he said was his work gun. On June 1, 2016, Mateen put Salman as the Payable at Death Beneficiary for his checking and savings account of which she previously had no access. They were expecting a $4,000 IRS deposit to that account shortly after the shooting. On June 4, 2016 Mateen spent $1,800 on a SIG Sauer MCX assault riffle and watched the Abu Mohammad al-Adnani video calling for acts of violence in America during Ramadan. 

On June 4, 2016, Mateen and Salman visited family in West Palm Beach, leaving at midnight to go further South to Delray Beach with their 3 year old son in tow. They drove around Delray for 45 minutes. At 2:00 AM a Chevron Gas Station surveillance footage shows them in Palm Beach with their child. They didn’t return to Port St. Lucie until 4 am. On June 5, 2016 Mateen purchased his Glock handgun. On June 6, 2016 Mateen and Salman went to Treasure Coast Mall and spent $8,000 at Kay Jewelers on jewelry, including a wedding ring though Salman already has one, $1,200 at Best Buy, $10,000 in total in just about 3 hours, all on credit cards and with store credit completely in Mateen’s name only. In 11 days, they spent $30,000 which was that family’s annual income. On June 8, 2016 Salman got her Driver’s License for the first time and they went to Bass Pro Shop in Orlando to purchase three magazines for Mateen’s SIG Sauer MCX assault riffle. They went to the Florida Mall and spent $800 at Zales on jewelry, $300 at Victoria Secret, and $600 at Michael Kors. They then drove to Disney Springs. The prosecutors described these trips as scouting missions.

On June 11, 2016  Mateen got a rental van and went to a shooting range where he purchased more ammo. He left his security job at G4S to take out $4,000 from his checking and $1,500 from savings. He purchase flights for the family to California for the next month and gave Salman $1,000 in cash. That evening after he left to murder 49 people in Orlando, she drove to Bank of American to deposit $500 of that cash. She bought a steak and also a father’s day gift for her husband before going home.

That night, at 5:41 PM Salman called her husband with no answer, so she texted him and instructed him to tell his mom that he was going out with Nemo and that she wanted to stay home. The text was to maintain the alibi. Mateen had his phone turned off until 7:20 pm presumably so that the FBI would not be able to track him. After all the missed messages and calls, at 7:27 he called his Mom to relay the alibi Salman had shared. At Mosque, Mateen’s Mom saw Nemo’s mom in the mosque and related that their sons were out together. Nemo’s Mom said, "No, Nemo is in medical school in Maryland studying." Mateen’s Mom became aware that her son was lying. Mateen’s Mom left the Mosque and tried to contact him. 

At 10 PM Mateen was at the House of Blues and bought a t-shirt which he later threw away. There was apparently a strong police presence outside of the House of Blues that evening. Afterwards Mateen googled downtown nightclubs on his phone. After passing up Eve, at about 1:30-1:40 he is in the area of Pulse Nightclub where he went inside and purchased a ticket for cover and went up to the bar. Noor Salman’s Internet activity showed that she was awake and not trying to stop the attack, but was shopping for a leather biker jacket. There was evidence that she deleted some of the text messages between she and her husband before the police obtained her phone.


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