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.