OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A federal judge in Florida blocked the planned release on Friday of the widow of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen to an uncle in Rodeo.
U.S. District Judge Paul Byron on Thursday stayed a ruling in which U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu in Oakland said Wednesday that Noor Salman could be released to the custody of her uncle, Abdallah Salman, in Rodeo on a $500,000 bond on Friday.
Byron said in a brief order that he will conduct an independent review of the evidence on whether Salman, 30, should be granted bail while awaiting trial on charges of aiding Mateen in the gunfire attack that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.
The assault was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police.
The judge set a March 8 deadline for Salman’s lawyers to file written arguments on their bid for bail. He also said he will hold an evidentiary hearing on the bail question if either prosecutors or defense lawyers request one.
Federal prosecutors had asked for a stay and the bail review by Byron in a brief filed earlier today, arguing that Salman is both a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Salman’s lead attorney, Charles Swift, said of the judge’s action, “It’s absolutely routine.”
Under federal court rules, it is normal for prosecutors to appeal a magistrate’s bail ruling to the trial judge, who then carries out an independent review, Swift said.
“I believe we have a strong factual record (favoring release on bond), as recognized by the magistrate in her order for release,” Swift said.
Salman was arrested on Jan. 16 at her mother’s house in Rodeo, where she and her 4-year-old son had been living since September.
The arrest followed her indictment by a federal grand jury in Orlando on Jan. 12 on two criminal counts.
The charges are aiding Mateen in providing material support to a terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State, and obstructing justice by misleading local police and the FBI when she was questioned in the hours following the attack.
Her initial detention hearing was held before Ryu because she was arrested within the Northern California federal court district.
Byron, of the federal court for the Middle District of Florida, has been assigned to be the trial judge in the case.
Swift said that if Salman is granted bail, he hopes that she and her son can remain with their relatives in Rodeo until close to time of the not-yet-scheduled trial.
Prosecutors from the Middle District of Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office claim Salman accompanied Mateen on visits to three potential shooting sites, knew he watched ISIS recruitment and beheading videos and was with him when he bought ammunition at a local Walmart.
They allege she told FBI agents at the end of a lengthy interrogation that she was aware her husband left their home on June 11 with a rifle and a backpack full of ammunition and that she knew he was going to commit an attack.
Defense attorneys contend that Salman was not affiliated with any terrorist group, was physically abused by Mateen, had impaired cognition, was looking at toys for their son when Mateen bought the bullets and did not know what he planned to do.
Ryu said on Wednesday that prosecutors hadn’t persuaded her that Salman was a flight risk or a threat to the community. She said she believed the weight of their evidence against Salman “is debatable at this time.”
But Ryu delayed Salman’s release for 48 hours until Friday to give prosecutors a chance to appeal to the federal trial judge.
Ryu’s bail order would have required Salman to wear a GPS monitoring device and to stay in her uncle’s house except for meetings with her lawyers and court appearances.