Ana: We have some breaking news right now. The jury has reached a verdict in the case against the Pulse nightclub shooter’s wife, not guilty on both counts, not guilty of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice. As jurors found, she did not aid her husband’s killing spree nor mislead law enforcement agents in their investigation of the Orlando massacre. Again, this is just breaking, this announcement of the verdict of the jury.
Let’s bring in our law enforcement analyst and former FBI Assistant Director, Tom Fuentes, and also with us, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Page Pate. So first, your reaction, Tom, to this verdict.
Tom: Well, I think we know, Ana, from the beginning, it was gonna be a difficult charge to prove. There’s been very few women brought up on charges of aiding and abetting terrorism or even obstruction of justice in a terrorism investigation. And even though she made many conflicting statements, then she made the argument that she was afraid, that she had been fearful of her husband, so even though he may have gone to gun shops and she was aware of that, but she feared to report anything to anybody, so I think that, you know, the jury was very sympathetic with her in this situation.
Ana: Page, your thoughts?
Page: Well, I don’t know, Ana, if it was sympathy here or the fact that she was a woman. I think, basically, the government was unable to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury stayed out for several days, trying to analyze the evidence. They had several questions for the judge, which showed that they were focusing on what she knew and when she knew it, because it’s not enough just to help her husband commit this offense, she has to know the offense is going to be committed. And as the judge instructed the jury, she had to be someone that wanted this to occur. And I simply don’t think the government had sufficient evidence to show that she was aware of specifically what he was capable of doing and that he was going to do it. I mean, her concerns, in hindsight, which she did express to the FBI, you know, “I wish I would have done more. Maybe I should have said something,” that is not enough for a criminal prosecution in a case like this.
Ana: Tom, one of the defense arguments was that the FBI was coercive in their questioning of her, and that of, course, was in relation to this potential obstruction charge. What do you make of that? Do you think that impacted the jury’s verdict?
Tom: I don’t know if they actually were that…that much pressure was being put on her to be coercive. I just don’t know those kind of details, but, you know, again, they’re investigating almost 50 people being massacred and, you know, that she had some information that he was up to some… And again, I agree that it wasn’t beyond a reasonable doubt, in that sense, and that there was plenty of question of what she knew and that she actually…did she aid and abet or not, and the jury has spoken that she didn’t. But I think that, you know, as far as whether she was coerced into the confessions and the various versions of statements that she gave, I don’t know that.
Ana: All right. Tom Fuentes and Page Pate, thank you both for being here with us. We’ll be right back.
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.