Judge orders psych evaluation for wife of Orlando gunman
A federal magistrate in Oakland Wednesday ordered a psychological evaluation for the widow of a man who shot and killed 49 people in a Florida nightclub last year.
Noor Salman, 30, is accused of aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, in providing support to a foreign terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State, in the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12.
Salman is also accused of a second count of obstructing justice by misleading local police and the FBI when she was questioned in the hours following the attack.
Along with the 49 killed, 53 other people were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Mateen died in a shootout with police.
Salman was arrested last month at her mother’s house in Rodeo, where she and her 4-year-old son have been living since September.
U.S. Magistrate Sallie Kim’s order came during a hearing on competing requests by prosecutors for no-bail detention pending a future trial and by Salman for release into the custody of her mother.
The psychological evaluation was recommended by a court pretrial services officer, who told Kim during the hearing that Salman had “a very depressed affect” and has been on suicide watch.
For now, Salman will remain in federal custody. Lawyers in the case said that after the evaluation is completed, they expect Kim to set dates for the postponed bail hearing and for discussion of when Salman may be transferred to federal court in Orlando for trial.
Both prosecution and defense attorneys said they supported the order for an evaluation.
Defense attorney Charles Swift said during the hearing that Salman was in a fragile mental state and needed treatment.
At the hearing and in papers filed with the court, he argued that Salman, whose family is Muslim, was not religious, was not affiliated with any terrorist group, had been physically abused by her husband and did not know what he planned to do.
Mateen became addicted to steroids and began to grow increasingly abusive six months after the couple married in 2011, Swift wrote in a filing.
Swift said that Mateen’s death removed any risk that Salman could be a danger to society. He argued to Kim:
“When you remove the batterer, you remove the risk and the risk to society.”
Outside of court, another defense attorney, Linda Moreno, said:
“We believe she does not pose any risk nor did she have any knowledge of what this man was going to do. … She is just a simple young woman. She needs to be home with her mother and her son.”
Prosecutor Sara Sweeney told Kim that at the end of 16 hours of interrogation by FBI agents that began on June 12, Salman admitted she was aware that her husband left their home on June 11 with a rifle and a backpack full of ammunition and allegedly said she knew he was going to commit an attack.
Salman initially told investigators and Mateen’s mother that Mateen told her he was having dinner with a friend on June 11.
Sweeney maintained that Salman was aware that Mateen was watching Islamic State recruiting video, accompanied him on three trips to case possible shooting sites and was with him when he bought ammunition.
Swift said that Salman frequently saw her husband with guns and ammunition because he worked as a security guard.
Salman, one of four daughters in a family of Palestinian descent, was born in Richmond and grew up in Rodeo. After being divorced from her abusive first husband, she met Mateen on an online dating site and moved with him to Fort Pierce, Florida, when they married.
After the nightclub shooting, Salman lived with an aunt in Mississippi for several months before moving to Rodeo.
Swift said in his brief that the family kept the FBI apprised of her whereabouts, and that Salman, her aunt and her son were accompanied by two FBI cars, one in front and one in back, when they drove from Mississippi to Rodeo last fall.