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Brisk Pace to January|Trial for ‘Cannibal Cop’

MANHATTAN (CN) - Prosecutors will spend the holidays wading through 140,000 emails with links to pornographic videos as they gear up for the 2013 trial of the alleged "cannibal cop."

Agents arrested Gilberto Valle, a 28-year-old officer with the New York Police Department, in late October after uncovering his alleged plot to kidnap, kill, cook and eat women with whom he communicated over the Internet.

While defense attorney Julia Gatto says her client was merely describing fantasies, prosecutors hope to show how Valle chatted with other men about his plots on extreme fetish websites.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman contends that Valle and unidentified co-conspirators crossed the line to conspiracy by scouting potential victims, breaking into a law enforcement database and agreeing to give each other logistical support.

For a month and a half, the parties have poured through extensive discovery requests to prepare for a Jan. 22, 2013, trial.

They met in court on Monday to determine whether that date is still realistic.

Since his arrest, Valle has spent 23 hours a day in a Special Housing Unit, or SHU, to protect him from assaults by other inmates. The officer appeared relaxed as he sat in court wearing his short-sleeved, blue prison jumpsuit.

Gatto, dressed in an earth-toned jacket and skirt, talked breezily and laughed with her controversial client while awaiting the entrance of U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe.

Waxman, the prosecutor, said Gatto must indicate whether she intends to ask for a trial delay immediately rather than risk a last-minute adjournment.

Noting that the defense has already appealed a recent ruling forbidding bail, Waxman said that she believed a delay would be likely.

But such a delay would be "not fair to the victim, not fair to the court," since prosecutors have "moved mountains" to meet their discovery demands, Waxman said.

Gatto countered: "I, too, have moved mountains. I have a client who's sitting in a SHU, 23 hours a day, seven days a week. ... The government's discovery is happening much later than they said it would."

For example, prosecutors are still keeping a lid on their interview with Valle's "quote-unquote co-conspirator" in New Jersey, Gatto said.

The defense attorney said that she suspects this man told the FBI the chats were "purely fantasy" because this man was never arrested. Such statements, if they were made, should be turned over to the defense, she added.

Waxman meanwhile denied the existence of such statements and would not even concede whether the interview occurred.

After the hearing, Gatto told reporters that the government has turned over records indicating that it interviewed the New Jersey man in early November.

The government maintains that it has been diligent about turning over evidence.

Going through a list of disclosures, Waxman rattled off a list of consent to search forms, criminal database records, bank statements, seized items and the stash of pornographic emails.

She did not state the date span of the emails or indicate what percentage of them link to the blue movies.

Gatto conceded that the government turned over the documents, but insisted that it still broke schedule.

"Discovery has come," Gatto said. "It's voluminous. It hasn't come within two weeks."

Judge Gardephe ruled that Gatto could take more time to see if the trial date should change.

"We're still five weeks out," he noted.

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