RODEO (CBS SF) — Emotions were overwhelming inside a Bay Area home Friday after a Florida jury had acquitted the wife of the Orlando nightclub gunman of helping her husband plot the attack that left 49 people dead.
Noor Salman, who grew up in the East Bay, was arrested by the FBI in January 2017 at her family’s home in Rodeo. She had fled to the Bay Area from Florida after the shooting with her four-year-old son.
Ever since that day, her family has maintained that she was innocent, as well as a victim of her husband, Omar Mateen.
“I’m so, so happy,” her mother, Ekbal Salman, told KPIX 5 through a screen door at the family home. “My daughter, I know, I believe in God that she’s not guilty … She’s not guilty because I know how I raised my daughter … Thanks for American justice.”
Her mother also expressed sympathy for those who were killed in the massacre.
“I’m sorry about the people who passed away,” Ekbal Salman said.
When asked how Noor has been doing, her mother said the shooting and her possible life sentence had worn her daughter down.
“She’s so tired. She’s stressed you can’t believe it,” Ekbal Salman said. “She’s sick …We have to take care of her.”
The family said it did not know when or if Noor Salman would be returning to the Bay Area. But her mother says she’s getting a room ready for her return.
In the Florida courtroom, Noor Salman sobbed upon hearing the jury’s verdict of not guilty of obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization, charges that could have brought life in prison.
Her family members who were present gasped each time the words “not guilty” were pronounced.
On the other side of the courtroom, the families of the victims of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting sat stone-faced and silent.
The stinging rejection of the case was a rare defeat for the government in a terrorism case.
Relying heavily on an alleged confession from Salman, federal prosecutors had charged that she and her husband, Omar Mateen, had scouted out potential targets together — including Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex — and that she knew he was buying ammunition for his AR-15 assault-style rifle for a jihadi attack.
The government contended also that she knew Mateen had a sick fascination with violent jihadi videos and an affinity for Islamic State group websites, and that she gave him a “green light to commit terrorism.”
But the defense portrayed her as an easily manipulated woman with a low IQ and argued that she signed a false confession because she was tired after extensive questioning and feared losing her young son.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.