NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jury selection got under way Monday in the trial of a New Jersey man and a former Manhattan school librarian who are charged with conspiring to rape, torture and murder women and children.
About 100 prospective New York jurors filled out questionnaires Monday aimed at learning if they can be fair and impartial despite the ghastly nature of the evidence in the upcoming trial of Robert Christopher Asch, 62, and Richard Meltz, 66.
One prospective juror shook her head slowly as a federal judge warned that the evidence includes discussions of kidnapping, raping, torturing and murdering women and children. She put her head in her hands as the judge said defense lawyers were likely to assert that the conversations were sexual fantasy and imaginary role-play.
Back last spring, a team of FBI agents spent long hours at the fifth-floor apartment at 33 Greenwich Ave. in the West Village, where Asch lived.
Asch, the retired librarian, and Meltz, a deputy chief with the Department of Veterans Affairs Police Department, were charged with kidnapping conspiracy.
Asch and Meltz are charged with conspiring from at least the spring of 2011 until April 2013 to carry out the plot, according to the criminal complaint.
“As alleged, both of these defendants took affirmative steps to carry out the conspiracy to kidnap and torture women,” FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said in a statement last year. “Their actions were not confined to talking about these ghoulish plans. They acquired the tools to accomplish the deed, including a taser and the chemical means to anesthetize their victims. And they made detailed plans to use these instruments — plans that were foiled by the FBI’s intervention.”
The trial comes a year after former NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was found guilty in a plot to kidnap, kill and eat women.
A Valle co-defendant, Michael Van Hise, allegedly e-mailed both Asch and Meltz about kidnapping and killing his wife.
“…how do you propose we grab my sis inlaw [sic],” the co-conspirator said, according to court papers.
“We go over there she knows you let’s [sic] us in we choke her out tie her up throw her in the back of your car take her someplace and slowly do her,” Meltz allegedly said, according to court papers.
Asch also allegedly wrote to Van Hise: “What’s your feeling about the kids. Do you love them, or do you want them done too?”
The two also allegedly discussed killing, dismembering and disposing of their victims, according to the complaint.
Asch also allegedly performed undercover surveillance on an agent acting as a would-be “victim,” saying, “She has to die.”
Meltz allegedly told Asch he had killed before, saying: “Some prey is easier to get than others. That’s part of the excitement and the thrill of it. Some fight and others just surrender.”
Asch was arrested in 2009 for alleged improper touching of several students. But the charges were later dropped.
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