The father of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen was an FBI informant, according a Monday federal court filing, which may explain why the FBI dropped its investigation into the would-be terrorist in 2014.
Lawyers for Noor Salman, the widow of Mateen, filed a motion for a mistrial just hours before the first witness was to be called, charging federal prosecutors with failing to timely reveal material information in her case.
Salman has been charged with aiding her husband in carrying out the attack in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016, that resulted in the deaths of 49 people with 58 more wounded.
“It is apparent from the Government’s belated disclosure that Ms. Salman has been defending a case without a complete set of facts and evidence that the Government was required to disclose,” attorney Fritz Scheller argued in the court filing.
These previous omissions “have placed Ms. Salman, the jury, and this Court in a dark wood where the search for truth has been thwarted,” the motion states.
Noor Salman's lawyers say FBI hid these key facts until now out of embarrassment: it was due to FBI's close relationship w/Mateen's father that they didn't arrest Mateen when they investigated him in 2013. Also, prosecution of Noor intended to protect real accomplice: FBI's asset pic.twitter.com/YGGq92E8Fw
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 26, 2018
The attorneys cited legal precedent, arguing they would have substantially changed their client’s defense had they known of Seddique Mateen’s status as an FBI informant earlier.
However, U.S. District Judge Paul Byron rejected the motion for a mistrial Monday afternoon.
“This trial is not about Seddique Mateen. It’s about Noor Salman,” Byron said via the Orlando Sentinel.
The attorneys’ motion specifically questioned whether the FBI’s decision to drop its investigation into Omar Mateen in 2014 was due to his father being an informant from 2005 until the time of the shooting in June 2016.
Following the attack, then FBI Director James Comey stated that Omar Mateen first came to FBI’s attention in 2013 when he was working as a security guard in Orlando, Time reported.
Mateen was placed in the Terrorist Screening Database after co-workers heard him making claims about having connections with al-Qaida and Hezbollah and hoping to martyr himself someday.
Comey said Mateen was taken off the watch list in March 2014, allowing him to easily acquire the weapons he used in the attack without the FBI knowing.
The agency gets notified when those on the list purchase weapons, which the 29-year-old did just a week before he carried out his killing rampage in the nightclub.
The motion also pointed to payments Seddique Mateen sent to Afghanistan and Turkey in the months leading up to the attack, raising the idea that he may have had foreknowledge of the attack.
Immediate following the shooting, the elder Mateen condemned his son’s actions on multiple media outlets.
“I apologize for what my son did. I don’t know why he did it,” he told NBC News at the time. “He is dead, so I can’t ask him. I wish I knew.”
Defense lawyers for Salman have claimed their client had no knowledge of Omar Mateen’s plans to attack the nightclub. Further, due to her low IQ, she was easily influenced by her husband, they say.
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