Jury sees sick images at NY cannibalism-plot trial
NEW YORK (AP) – Prosecutors finished presenting evidence in the cannibalism conspiracy case against a New York police officer Monday after showing jurors a video of a screaming woman, made to appear as if cooking over an open flame, and other disturbing images from websites devoted to torturing and eating women.
The government rested a week after it began trying to prove that Officer Gilberto Valle tried to conspire with others on the Internet to kidnap, kill and cannibalize six women, including friends and his wife.
As soon as the government finished, defense lawyers asked the judge to acquit their client, saying prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence to let a jury decide whether Valle planned to carry out a crime. A judge reserved decision. Defense attorney Julia Gatto said it has not yet been decided whether the officer will testify.
Earlier, FBI computer forensics examiner Stephen Flatly testified Valle frequently visited websites showing women in various stages of forced duress, including one that offered images of women who did not survive.
“Some are dead. … A couple of them appeared to have been strangled,” he said.
As Flatly described the images displayed on video monitors in federal court in Manhattan, some jurors put hands to their mouths. One shook her head. Another wiped his brow.
One cannibalism website allegedly visited by Valle promised customers they would “only receive the highest quality human beef.” The jury also heard how the officer allegedly looked up “how to tie up a girl,” ”human meat recipes,” ”how to chloroform a girl,” ”I want to sell a girl slave,” ”how to cook a girl,” ”death fetish” and “huge cooking tray” among other topics the defense says were part of a fetish fantasy that never posed a real threat.
The FBI analysis of Valle’s laptop yielded an apparently staged video of a naked, screaming woman hanging over an open flame that lashed close to her skin. Flatly did not say where the video might have originated. There also were several photos of women with bright red apples stuffed in their mouths.
Two images of naked women roasting on a giant spit were discovered in a computer file of several dozen photographs that Valle kept on a former college friend whom prosecutors have identified as a target of the alleged plot. The face of one woman prosecutors say he targeted was cut out and pasted onto a cartoon of a woman being boiled in a pot.
Prosecutors also had wanted to present as many as 34 exhibits of even more ghastly images found on Valle’s computer depicting women being tortured, dead bodies and body parts. The photos included a picture of a dead body with the feet cut off – an image Valle’s wife testified she saw when she went to one of his favorite sites and discovered why he stayed up late online.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe ruled they were not admissible because they were automatically stored in cache files on Valle’s computer. “What we don’t have is proof that he ever saw the images here,” he said at the start of the second week of the trial.
However, the judge permitted the screenshots of Valle’s Internet searches about cannibalism. Also admitted was evidence that the officer looked up articles written about the rape and murder of a young woman and others about a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered in California.
The browsing history also showed that an article titled “Cannibalism can be addictive, expert says” and Facebook pages of alleged targets were viewed.
Valle, 28, has been held without bail since his October arrest. Throughout the trial, his lawyers have attacked government evidence as nothing more than a man fantasizing with like-minded people. The government has conceded that Valle never met the purported Internet co-conspirators and that no women were harmed.
Jurors have heard testimony from Valle’s estranged wife and from former classmates and other women who said they knew Valle on a casual basis and never considered him dangerous. Their testimony was followed by evidence that all of them were the subjects of emails and chats describing how they could be snatched away and eaten.
The defense has said it will begin its case by playing the videotaped deposition of the Russian operator of a fetish website that Valle frequented.
LARRY NEUMEISTER AND TOM HAYS
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