Search to hold someone accountable for Pulse ends with acquittal of gunman's widow

In the five years since the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, those hit hardest have had to relive the nightmare, again and again.

In March of 2018, the widow of the gunman was acquitted of helping her husband plot the attack and lying to the FBI afterward, ending the government's nearly two-year effort to hold someone accountable.

Noor Salman was found by a jury to be not guilty of obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization, charges that could have brought life in prison. 

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.


Noor Salman, widow of Pulse Nightclub gunman Omar Mateen, with her legal team.

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."

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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.

And in a blow to prosecutors' case, the FBI itself found that receipts and cellphone signals showed the couple was nowhere near the Pulse on the day Salman said they were.

The lack of a recorded confession from Salman is believed to have influenced the jury.

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Prosecutors had also accused Salman of obstructing the investigation by lying to the FBI. She falsely claimed that her husband didn't use the internet in their home, that he had deactivated his Facebook account years earlier, that he had one gun when he had three, and that he wasn't radicalized, they said.

But the defense said Salman, who was born in California to Palestinian parents, was abused by her husband, who cheated on her with other women and concealed much of his life from her. 

According to prosecutors, Mateen intended to attack Disney World's shopping and entertainment complex by hiding a gun in a stroller but became spooked by police and chose a new target.

Mateen, the American-born son of Afghan immigrants, was killed by police in the nightclub attack.

Watch FOX 35 News for more coverage of the 5-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.