“A verdict of not guilty did NOT mean that we [the Jury] thought Noor Salman was unaware of what Omar Mateen was planning to do,” wrote the Jury Foreman. “On the contrary, we were convinced she did know. She may not have known what day, or what location, but she knew. However, we were not tasked with deciding if she was aware of a potential attack.” This statement was posted by the Orlando Sentinel (03-30-18).
Defendant, NOOR ZAHI SALMAN, was found not guilty of two charges: (1) “Aiding and Abetting the Attempted Provision and Provision of Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization;” and (2) “Obstruction of Justice.” See the Indictment.1
Respect the Jury and Verdict
The American legal system works only if citizens respect the Jury and Verdict. The Judge provides the law and instructions. The parties provide facts and evidence. The Jury is tasked to determine whether a defendant is guilty of the crime as defined in the Indictment, and based on evidence only presented in court. The Jury has returned a Verdict of not guilty of all charges.
It is human nature to play “armchair pundit.” This author, and likely you as reader, did not attend the trial. We do not have access to evidence including testimony, other than reports via the media. A defendant is not required to, and this defendant did not, testify at trial. So we do not know the defendant’s state of mind, or whether defendant is credible.
Yet, we may analyze, speculate, and proffer opinions as hypotheticals. To help understand the distinction between not guilty and innocent, please consider review of charges; Taqiyya: Islamic doctrine of lies to infidels; and whether there should be recorded interviews of persons who may be charged later.
The charges require a defendant to have actual knowledge
From the Indictment:
COUNT ONE: She “did knowingly aid and abet Omar Mateen’s attempted provision and provision of ‘material support or resources,’ as this term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2339A(b)(1), including personnel and services, to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, knowing that the organization was designated as a terrorist organization, and that the organization had engaged and was engaging in terrorist activity and terrorism, and the death of multiple victims resulted. [sic] In violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339B(a)(1) and 2 (aiding and abetting).” 2
COUNT TWO: She “did knowingly engage in misleading conduct toward another person and persons, that is, Officers of the Fort Pierce, Florida, Police Department and Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the intent to hinder, delay, and prevent the communication to federal law enforcement officers and judges of the United States of information relating to the commission and possible commission of a federal offense, … information relating to the attack on June 12, 2016, at the Pulse Night Club, in Orlando, Florida.” [sic] In violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3).” 3
Islamic doctrine not explained during trial?
Trials often include experts, who may offer opinions. The media apparently did not report testimony from experts on Islam. No evidence of Islamic doctrine including every Muslim’s duty of Jihad, or women considered as a second-class. Oh, but that would be misconstrued as “Islamophobic!”
Yet, if a Muslim wife is charged for allegedly helping her Muslim husband to commit Jihad, should a Jury understand a possible Islamic motivation? There are Islamic scholars: Robert Spencer, whose Jihad Watchincludes Gregory M. Davis’ explanations as “Islam 101:”
“The violent injunctions of the Quran and the violent precedents set by Muhammad set the tone for the Islamic view of politics and of world history… Islam means submission… The rest of the world, which has not accepted Sharia law and so is not in a state of submission, exists in a state of rebellion or war with the will of Allah… Islam’s message to the non-Muslim world is the same now as it was in the time of Muhammad and throughout history: submit or be conquered.” 4
“Taqiyya – Religious Deception[:] Due to the state of war… systematic lying to the infidel, must be considered part and parcel of Islamic tactics… Historically, examples of taqiyya include permission to renounce Islam itself in order to save one’s neck or ingratiate oneself with an enemy. It is not hard to see that the implications of taqiyya are insidious in the extreme: they essentially render negotiated settlement – and, indeed, all veracious communication… impossible.” 5
The above was not presented to the Jury in this case. Defendant claimed ignorance of the attack, but re-read the Jury Foreman’s statement at the beginning of this article.
Whether a statement is reliable and credible
Islamic doctrine, including Taqiyya, is not relevant, a possible argument by defense. Yet, consider the Jury Instructions, specifically no. 7:
“In determining whether any such statement is reliable and credible, consider factors bearing on the voluntariness of the statement. For example, consider the age, gender, training, education, occupation, and physical and mental condition of Ms. Salman, and any evidence concerning her treatment while being questioned if the statement was made in response to questioning by government officials, and all other circumstances in evidence surrounding the making of the statement.”
Before her arrest, Defendant submitted her defense to the New York Times. “In the interview, Ms. Salman said she had a reason for talking publically now (11/16): ‘I just want people to know that I am human. I am a mother.’”
Was Ms. Salman uneducated or unsavvy? “She was a poor student in high school but earned an associate degree in medical administration.”
To summarize: “Ms. Salman denied any involvement in the attack or any knowledge of what her husband was going to do. She described him as someone who angered easily, beat her often and lived his life in secret.”
See Something, Say Nothing
Was Ms. Salman the stereotypical American housewife, non-religious, who was oblivious of her husband’s actions?
She reportedly was aware: Her husband was investigated twice (circa 2013) by the FBI, but cleared him, as reported by the above NYT’s article.
She reportedly was aware: Her husband watched “ISIS propaganda and beheading videos,” as reported by Fox News, and the above NYT’s article.
She reportedly was aware: She “shopped with her husband at a Walmart the night before the massacre where he bought five containers of ammunition,” reported by Fox News.
She reportedly was aware, as indicated by her alleged third statement: “[W]hat Mateen had been planning – and had been with him as he drove around Pulse days earlier,” as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
Ms. Salman did not connect the dots: She claimed the above as isolated, otherwise innocent, circumstances: Her husband was cleared; he worked as a security guard; and he only wanted site-seeing trips to Orlando.
Should law enforcement record interviews?
Yes, according to the Jury Foreman: “I wish that the FBI had recorded their interviews with Ms. Salman as there were several significant inconsistencies with the written summaries of her statements.” See the Foreman’s statement listed above.
Historically, recorded interviews were the exception. Consider the FBI’s memo (03-23-06) titled Electronic Recording of Confessions and Witness Interviews. “[A]gents may not electronically record confessions or interviews, openly or surreptitiously, unless authorized by the SAC [Special Agent in Charge].”
“There is no federal law that requires federal agents to electronically record custodial interviews and, to our knowledge, no federal law enforcement agency currently mandates this practice,” reported the memo, but observed: “agents testifying to statements made by criminal defendants have increasingly faced intense cross-examination concerning this policy in apparent efforts to cast doubt upon the voluntariness of statements in the absence of recordings or the accuracy of the testimony regarding the content of the statement.” 6
Arguments against a recorded interview: “First, the presence of recording equipment may interfere with and undermine the successful rapport-building interviewing technique which the FBI practices. Second, FBI agents have successfully testified to custodial defendants’ statements for generations with only occasional, and rarely successful, challenges. Third, as all experienced investigators and prosecutors know, perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants.” 7
A recorded interview may be appropriate in circumstances, such as “extensive media scrutiny,” cited the memo.8And equally important, consider: “If prosecution is anticipated, the type and seriousness of the crime, including, in particular, whether the crime has a mental element (such as knowledge or intent to defraud), proof of which would be considerably aided by the defendant’s admissions in his own words.” 9
The above is nuanced for “individuals in federal custody, following arrest but prior to their first appearance in court,” wrote the Department of Justice in a press release: “Beginning on July 11, 2014, the new policy establishes a presumption that the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive [sic] (ATF), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS) will electronically record interviews occurring in a place of detention with suitable recording equipment.”
The Jury has returned a Verdict of not guilty of all charges. We respect the Jury and Verdict.
Defendant claimed a defense of domestic violence, that: “Ms. Salman was too busy trying to survive,” as reported by the NYT’s above article. “In the last weeks of Mr. Mateen’s life, Ms. Salman said, her husband started being kind again. She believed she was being rewarded for her silence.”
“See something, say nothing” should be the equivalent of “aiding and abetting.”
Gerald Lostutter is a Florida licensed attorney, college professor, and journalist. He has worked in the print and broadcast media. His comedy can be heard on Central Florida Radio. Scroll down to WDBO-AM 580, and WMEL-AM 920.
1 United States of America v. Noor Zahi Salman, Case: 6:17-cr-00018-JA-KRS. This case merged a related case of 6:17-cr-00018-JA-KRS-1. Both were filed Jan. 12, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Orlando). This public record is online via Pacer, which will require the User’s account, and possible costs.
2 Indictment, Count I, B. The Crime, p. 2.
3 Indictment, Count II, pp. 2-3.
4 Islam 101 (PDF): 2. Jihad and Dhimmitude, c. Dar al-Islam and dar al-harb: the House of Islam and the House of War.
5 Islam 101 (PDF): 2. Jihad and Dhimmitude, c. Dar al-Islam…, i. Taqiyya – Religious Deception.
6 FBI Memo, Electronic Recording, p. 2.
7 FBI Memo, Electronic Recording, p. 3.
8 FBI Memo, Electronic Recording, p. 2, footnote 2.
9 FBI Memo, Electronic Recording, p. 4.
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