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Widow of Pulse nightclub gunman acquitted

Issued: 2018-03-30

Susan Adieh, left, cousin, and other family members of Noor Salman receive hugs from friends Friday, March 30, 2018 after a jury found Salman not guilty on all charges at the Orlando Federal Courthouse, in Orlando, Fla. The widow of the gunman who slaughtered 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub was acquitted Friday of helping her husband plan the attack and lying to the FBI, ending the government’s two-year effort to hold someone accountable. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Defense attorney's Fritz Scheller, left, Charles Swift and Linda Moreno for Noor Salman react to a question during a news conference Friday, March 30, 2018 after the jury acquitted Noor Salman, Friday, March 30, 2018 in Orlando, Fla. Salman, widow of Omar Mateen, the gunman who slaughtered 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub in 2016 was acquitted of helping to plot the attack and lying to the FBI afterward, a rare and stinging defeat for the U.S. government in a terrorism case. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Assistant U.S. Attorney's Sara Sweeney,left, James Gandolfo and Roger Handberg,right, leave the Orlando Federal Courthouse Friday, March 30, 2018 after Noor Salman was acquitted Friday, March 30, 2018 in Orlando, Fla. Salman, widow of Omar Mateen, the gunman who slaughtered 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub in 2016 was acquitted of helping to plot the attack and lying to the FBI afterward, a rare and stinging defeat for the U.S. government in a terrorism case. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma ,center, who was present for the verdict, leaves the courthouse with a group of family members of Pulse victims after Noor Salman was acquitted Friday, March 30, 2018 in Orlando, Fla. Salman, widow of Omar Mateen, the gunman who slaughtered 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub in 2016 was acquitted of helping to plot the attack and lying to the FBI afterward, a rare and stinging defeat for the U.S. government in a terrorism case. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, artwork and signatures cover a fence around the Pulse nightclub, scene of a mass shooting, in Orlando, Fla. Jurors in the federal trial of Noor Salman, the Pulse nightclub gunman's widow, have gotten a look inside his Florida condo through crime scene photos taken as FBI agents searched the home. They also saw some of her husband Omar Mateen's web browsing history Tuesday, March 20, 2018, including beheading videos created by the Islamic State group Mateen had pledged allegiance to. Salman is accused of aiding and abetting her husband in the 2016 attack that left 49 people dead. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Charles Swift, defense attorney for Noor Salman paces outside the Orlando Federal Courthouse, Thursday, March 29, 2018, as the jury deliberates the fate of his client in Orlando, Fla. Jurors in the trial of Salman, accused of aiding her husband's terrorist attack against an Orlando nightclub, later finished deliberating on Thursday without reaching a verdict. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Noor Salman, the widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub has been acquitted on charges of lying to the FBI and helping her husband in the 2016 attack. (March 30)

Noor Salman, the widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub has been acquitted on charges of lying to the FBI and helping her husband in the 2016 attack. (March 30)

The widow of the gunman who slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was acquitted Friday of helping to plot the attack and lying to the FBI afterward — a rare and stinging defeat for the U.S. government in a terrorism case.

Noor Salman, 31, 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 a life sentence. Her family gasped each time the words "not guilty" were pronounced.

On the other side of the Orlando courtroom, the families of the victims of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting sat stone-faced and silent.

Within hours, Salman was released from jail after 14 months and got into a waiting car without answering questions.

"Noor is so grateful. Her belief in the process was shown. She wants to get back to her son," her attorney Linda Moreno said. Family spokeswoman Susan Clary said Salman's family "always thought that Noor was the first victim" of her husband, Omar Mateen.

The verdict reverberated through Orlando and legal circles beyond.

"The government rarely, rarely loses these kinds of cases. It's got every single factor on its side," said David Oscar Markus, a Miami attorney who routinely tries federal cases. "It's a pretty impressive win for the defense and a devastating loss for the government."

Noor Salman, the widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub has been acquitted on charges of lying to the FBI and helping her husband in the 2016 attack. (March 30)

Mateen, the American-born son of Afghan immigrants, was killed by police after opening fire in the name of the Islamic State group.

Relying heavily on an alleged confession from Salman, federal prosecutors charged that she and Mateen had scouted out potential targets together — including Disney World's shopping and entertainment complex — and that she gave him the "green light to commit terrorism."

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