Suspected ‘Cannibal Cop’ Weeps as Jury Deliberates

     MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City’s alleged “cannibal cop” wept as his lawyer showed the jury a picture of the young daughter he lost when his wife found out about his morbid online musings.
     “For that, he is already serving a life sentence,” Gilberto Valle’s attorney Julia Gatto said.
     Valle, 28, an NYPD officer, could face an actual life sentence if the federal jury finds he intended to follow through on his chats on the Darkfetishnet website, involving kidnapping, raping, cooking and eating women.
     Gatto compared these chats to Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” presented – with repeated disclaimers – as a breaking news story about a Martian attack on Manhattan.
     “Panic ensued,” Gatto said. “People really fled their homes. They thought it was an alien invasion.”
     She insisted that her client’s case was “no more real.”
     Valle’s profile page on the website allegedly stated, “I like to press the envelope but no matter what I say, it is all fantasy.”
     That profile page was deleted when Valle closed his account, but a paralegal for the defense testified that she saw the page in his web cache.
     According to one defense exhibit, Valle told a woman named Valerie in an online chat, “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.”
     Valerie told him in the chat that a butcher could get 12 to 15 pounds of meat out of her.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman insisted that prosecutors distinguished between storytelling and the real thing.
     “This case is not about freedom of speech or freedom of thought,” Waxman said, adding that the “Darkfetishnet website is not on trial.”
     FBI Agent Cory Walsh, who sorted out the evidence, testified that he put that conversation into a pile of conversations he identified as fictitious.
     The allegedly “real” pile included conversations with Michael Vanhise, a 22-year-old from New Jersey; Aly Khan, who claimed to be chatting from India and Pakistan; and a Brit known by the name “Moody Blues.”
     But Gatto, lifting up that pile, told the jury that it was filled with reasonable doubt.
     In a Feb. 28, 2012 chat, Vanhise tried to haggle down the price of Alyssa, one of the alleged targets, from $5,000 to $4,000.
     Valle responded: “I am putting my neck on the line here. If something goes wrong somehow, I am in deep shit. $5,000 and you need to make sure she is not found. She will definitely make the news.”
     Gatto said the deadline for the abduction passed, no money changed hands and the men acted as if the conversation never had happened when they chatted again months later.
     After Vanhise was arrested for a similar conspiracy, his wife told the New York Daily News that she knew about her husband’s online chats, but that she accepted his “flaws.”
     Moody Blues, who was arrested in Britain on child pornography charges, received a document from Valle titled “Abducting and Cooking Kimberly: A Blueprint.”
     It contained a picture of Valle’s college friend Kimberly Sauer, smiling and reclining with her head propped on her hands.
     Waxman said that transmission put Sauer in “grave danger,” but the rest of the document misidentifies her last name, age, place of birth, degree and former university – details that Valle says he knew.
     When Moody Blues urged him to find a “VERY SECLUDED” spot to carry out the alleged plot, Valle replied: “I have a place in the mountains. Nobody’s around for three quarters of a mile.” He said there would be no one to “hear her screams.”
     But Valle he had no such place, Gatto said, nor did he and Moody meet for the “Labor Day cookout” they planned.
     Valle drove with his wife and daughter to Maryland to meet with Sauer for brunch a few days after this conversation.
     Prosecutors say he was conducting surveillance.
     The defense claims it was a meal between old friends.
     Shortly after this trip, Valle met again with Moody online, in July and wrote that Sauer looked “absolutely mouthwatering.”
     There was no evidence that the two ever spoke about the alleged plan again. Valle was arrested roughly three months later, in late October.
     The Khan chats also turned up apparent inconsistencies.
     In those chats, Valle pretended to have a remote house in Pennsylvania, and wrote that he planned to lure Sauer to India before changing the venue to an unspecified Pakistani hotel.
     Valle also is charged with illegally searching an NYPD database for the names of women profiled on his computer.
     The defense insists the dates of these searches do not match up with the timeline of any of the alleged plots.
     Gatto accused prosecutors of using the case’s shocking evidence – including pornographic snuff images, cannibal cartoons and a simulated torture video – to try to convict Valle based on “emotion and disgust alone.” She said that “the burden of proof itself is on trial.”
     During his rebuttal summation, prosecutor Randall Jackson did not shy away from outrage, and told the jury they should be disturbed.
     “The defense has been trying to sell you on the idea that it is OK for a police officer walking around with a gun in New York City to have daily conversations about executing women,” he thundered.
     He compared it to a chef chatting nightly about poisoning his patrons with cyanide.
     “Fantasies point to actual deep-seated desires,” Jackson said.
     Throughout his rebuttal, Jackson repeatedly described Valle as “sick,” “sadistic” and said that visitors on the Darkfetishnet website were “not normal.”
     The defense depicted Valle as a part of a thriving, if twisted, online community. It claims that Darkfetishnet boasts of more than 30,000 members, though its founder testified that only about 4,500 maintain active accounts. These include users from around the world, with tamer kinks such as foot fetishes.
     The jury heard no statistics about other morbid fetish websites cited in the case.
     Jackson said that prosecutors were aware of their burden, and “wrap [it] around ourselves like a warm blanket.”
     The jury’s notes during deliberations indicate that they take that burden of proof seriously.
     Its first request asked for evidence related to the Google search for the address of a high school student that appeared in one of Valle’s chats.
     Prosecutors seized upon this research as proof that this alleged plot was not make-believe.
     “You don’t need [her] address to fantasize about her in your mind,” Jackson said.
     Around this time, Valle’s wife discovered her husband’s cannibalistic musings. The defense says she could have searched for the student’s address while researching his online activities.
     Jurors requested a stipulation stating that it is impossible to conclude who placed the search based on forensics alone. They also asked for “a flip chart to help organize our facts,” which the judge agreed to have waiting for them when they returned today (Friday).
     Valle is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and accessing a federal government computer without authorization.

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