NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A former New York City police officer accused of plotting to kidnap, cook and eat women broke down in tears in court Thursday.
Deliberations have begun in the case against Gilberto Valle.
A prosecutor argued that the FBI had to stop Valle last year before he could go forward with a macabre scheme to abduct and cannibalize women, while his lawyer dismissed the supposed plot as “no more real than an alien invasion” and closer to pornography than a real crime.
Valle was in the midst of a plot to “kidnap, torture, rape and commit other horrific acts” on at least six women he knew, including his wife, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman told a Manhattan jury in closing arguments at Valle’s kidnapping conspiracy trial. “The law does not require that we wait until he carries out his crime.”
“This is a man who had a deep-seated desire to harm women and the evidence suggests he had a plan to do that,” prosecutor Randall Jackson told the jury in his closing arguments.
As CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey reported, the government also reviewed Valle’s online chats about eating human body parts, the graphic pictures he allegedly viewed, the surveillance he conducted, the database searches for information and the danger he posed as a police officer.
“We’re talking about a man, entrusted to walk the city streets with a loaded weapon, who is stimulated by the thought of a woman sexually assaulted and executed,” the prosecution argued in its closing statement.
Valle had thousands of online chats with so-called “cannibal cohorts” about certain women who were targeted for kidnapping, torture and cannibalism. Valle’s own wife was allegedly on the list.
“The purpose [of the chats] is to get advice on how to do this. And that’s a criminal conspiracy,” prosecutors argued.
The defense claims Valle is being prosecuted for indulging in offensive, but harmless, fantasies fed by visits to fetish websites meant solely for role-play.
His attorney, Julia Gatto, started her closing by reading from a 2012 Valle email saying, “I just have a world in my mind and in that world I am kidnapping women and selling them to people interested in buying them.”
She also compared the Valle case to infamous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast in 1938 that, according to myth, caused some people to flee their homes.
Likewise, Valle‘s disturbing online interplay may have caused his wife to panic, leave their Queens apartment with their infant child and report him to the FBI. But, she added, “His stories are no more real than the alien invasion. Gil Valle is accused of a crime he didn’t commit.”
“It’s clear he had this fetish for a long time, but he never acted on it,” Gatto told jurors.
Gatto called her client’s chats with other men “Gil’s porn” and “stupid, infantile, (sexual) storytelling” — a habit that destroyed his life — but not proof of a conspiracy. The defendant, wearing a dark suit and yellow tie, wept as his lawyer described how the case had “cost him everything,” including his wife and “adorable baby.”
“It’s not storytelling in a forum that you buy in a Barnes and Noble, but it is story telling. It’s storytelling on the Internet, exchanged between peoples,” Gatto told CBS 2’s Hennessey outside court on Thursday.
But Waxman argued the evidence shows that Valle “left the world of fantasy and entered the world of reality.” The officer’s actions were “no joke,” she added. “It was not just sick entertainment.”
The prosecutor said that the 28-year-old officer took concrete steps to further the plot — looking up potential targets on a restricted law enforcement database, searching the Internet for how to knock someone out with chloroform and showing up on the block of one woman after agreeing to kidnap her for $5,000.
He also viewed a clip of the slaughter of a goat — a “gruesome video — a practical how-to guide to killing, an educational tool for Valle’s killing,” the prosecutor said.
At trial, the jury heard the testimony of women who knew Valle and were trading innocent-sounding emails and texts with him at the same time he was making elaborate plans to make meals out of them. The government also sought to drive home the point that Valle was more of a threat because he carried a badge and gun.
“Women who wanted no part of this were put in grave danger by that man, Gilberto Valle,” Waxman said.
Lawyers for Valle, who also cried when his wife testified against him, said he made up elaborate plans but did nothing to make any of them happen. The lawyers presented evidence from witnesses that Valle did not have any of the tools of the torture he described in instant message chats and emails, and did not own an upstate home where he had suggested he could cook a victim.
On two occasions, jurors seemed unnerved when they were shown sadistic pornography, including what appeared to be a staged video of a chained, naked woman screaming as the flame of a torch was put beneath her crotch.
At the end of her closing arguments, Gatto showed a picture of Valle in uniform, holding his baby daughter. The photo caused Valle to break down in tears.
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