NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The defense team for a New York police officer charged with conspiring to kidnap, kill and eat women has rested its case after calling just one main witness to testify.
Lawyers told the judge earlier Tuesday that Officer Gilberto Valle would not take the stand in his own defense.
Defense attorneys presented evidence Tuesday beginning with the videotaped deposition of a Russian man who runs a fetish website where the government says Officer Gilberto Valle, 28, met co-conspirators interested in capturing, raping, killing, cooking and eating women.
Sergey Merenkov, 34, said in testimony videotaped Feb. 19 that he started the darkfetishnet web site with partners in 2010 to create a Facebook-like environment for people with kinky fantasies to communicate. He said the majority of the 4,500 active users, 25 percent of which he estimates to be women, are in the United States or Europe.
According to a transcript already in court records, the Moscow resident testified that people commonly engage in role play on the website, such as when a woman poses as a witch and a mob of 10 or more angry villagers prepare to hang her.
Merenkov spoke Russian as he answered questions from a defense lawyer and, later, a prosecutor. Sitting in a leather desk chair and wearing a black T-shirt, he leaned back at one point and put his hands behind his head.
“The girl could write, ‘I’m shivering from fright. They’re pulling me to the noose. I can feel the rope already on my neck,”’ he testified.
The site is paid for mostly be the 38,000 subscribers, Merenkov testified. He also told the jury that he banned the posting of unsuspecting real women on the page ‘What Would You Do To Her?’ after many complaints, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
The jury was reminded that Valle allegedly offered up his wife Kathleen Mangan on the dark fetish website as a prime target for kidnap, torture, rape and murder, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.
The reminder came in a message she sent on the computer she shared with her husband. The message submitted as evidence read, “My husband doesn’t want me. My husband loves porn. It’s scary. My husband is a sexual sadist.”
Testimony by the man who says his primary job is to distribute Spanish ice cream in Moscow is aimed at supporting defense arguments that Valle was role playing when he spoke in dramatic details with others on the Internet about killing and cooking at least six women he knew, including his wife.
On cross examination, Merenkov said he did not know anything about Valle when the FBI contacted him last fall. He said he tried to find communications involving Valle but they apparently were lost when Valle quit the website in September.
He said the website now warns its members not to post pictures of people they know, a rule instituted last summer after complaints.
A prosecutor asked him if some subjects discussed on the website would be illegal if they were carried out, such as sex with dead bodies, one of the site’s more popular subjects.
“Yes, but reality is one thing and fantasy is completely a different thing,” he responded.
After prosecutors finished showing their evidence Monday, defense attorney Edward Vas argued Valle should be exonerated by the judge because the government failed to show there was “a true second participant” in the supposed conspiracy, only fellow role-playing Internet friends.
The judge did not immediately rule. The government has conceded that Valle never met the purported Internet co-conspirators and that no women were harmed.
In a final flourish Monday, prosecutors revealed the contents of two computers Valle used, including disturbing images from websites devoted to torturing and eating women.
FBI computer forensics examiner Stephen Flatly testified Valle frequently visited several websites showing women in various stages of forced duress, including one that offered images of women who did not survive.
“Some are dead. … A couple of them appeared to have been strangled,” he said.
As Flatly described the images displayed on video monitors in federal court in Manhattan, some jurors put hands to their mouths. One shook her head. Another wiped his brow.
One cannibalism website allegedly visited by Valle promised customers they would “only receive the highest quality human beef.” The jury also heard how the officer allegedly looked up “how to tie up a girl,” “human meat recipes,” “‘how to chloroform a girl,” “I want to sell a girl slave,” “how to cook a girl,” “death fetish” and “huge cooking tray” among other topics.
The FBI analysis of Valle’s laptop yielded an apparently staged video of a naked, screaming woman hanging over an open flame that came close to her skin. There also were several photos of women with bright red apples stuffed in their mouths.
Two images of naked women roasting on a giant spit were discovered in a computer file of several dozen photographs Valle kept on a former college friend whom prosecutors have identified as a target of the alleged plot. The face of one woman prosecutors say he targeted was cut out and pasted onto a cartoon of a woman being boiled in a pot.
His browsing history also revealed an article titled “Cannibalism can be addictive, expert says.”
A hearing on jury instructions is set for Wednesday. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday.
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