By Curtis Skinner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The wife of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, asked a California court on Tuesday to be released from custody pending trial, arguing she had no knowledge of his plans and was asleep as the attack unfolded.
Noor Salman, 30, was arrested this month and pleaded not guilty to federal charges of obstructing justice and aiding her late husband, Omar Mateen, in his attempt to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Salman’s attorneys filed the petition arguing for her release ahead of her detention hearing on Wednesday in a federal court in Oakland. She has been jailed since her arrest in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The filing said that on the night of the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub, Salman put her young son to bed and fell asleep before getting a call from her mother-in-law, who asked if she knew where Mateen was after he failed to show for a planned visit.
Salman did not know her husband’s whereabouts, according to the petition, and texted Mateen to find out. He responded with a text saying: “Do you see what’s happening?” When she replied she had not, he wrote only: “I love you, babe.”
It was the last communication they had, Salman’s lawyers said. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police after he took hostages during a three-hour standoff in the nightclub.
“These are not the actions of someone with knowledge of her husband’s murderous plans,” the filing said.
Salman was indicted by a grand jury, and prosecutors said she lied to investigators looking into the shooting. The first person charged by U.S. authorities in connection with the attack, she could face life in prison if convicted.
The court motion by the defense said Salman was physically abused by Mateen, who was “rapidly succumbing to steroid abuse” and exerted significant control over her.
Friends and family describe her as “simple,” “obedient” and “child-like,” the lawyers said, adding Salman had no criminal history and posed no threat to the public.
Should the court release her into the custody of her uncle or mother, Salman’s lawyers said her mother would be willing to relocate to Florida, where prosecutors have said they intend to try Salman.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)