NYC cannibal-plot case now in jury’s hands
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City jury that’s been presented with talk and images, staged or not, of women being cooked alive, sex with dead people and human-flesh feasts now will have to decide whether a police officer really planned to kidnap, kill and eat women or was engaging in fantasy.
Gilberto Valle chose Tuesday not to take the witness stand in federal court, making it likely that jurors will get the case before the end of the week.
The defense also did not call experts who had been expected to testify about Valle’s mental state when he engaged in a cannibalism fetish.
The evidence already showed that “this is all fantasy role play,” defense attorney Robert Baum said outside court. “Gil had nothing to add to that really … except to say ‘I didn’t do it.'”
Closing arguments are set for Thursday in a case that’s made Valle a tabloid sensation. Valle faces a possible life term if convicted on the kidnapping conspiracy charge.
Valle, 28, was arrested in October after his wife discovered the chats on his computer and fled their home, turning a computer over to the FBI.
The government has conceded that Valle never met the purported Internet co-conspirators and that no women were harmed. But they argue he took concrete steps to carry out abductions of his wife and former classmates, including researching potential victims on a restricted law enforcement database.
During the government’s weeklong case, jurors viewed a staged video of a screaming naked woman being tortured with a blow torch. They also heard about how Valle and another man discussed how best to cook and eat a woman.
Most of the defense testimony came from Sergey Merenkov, the Russian founder of a fetish website used by Valle.
“We saw a niche in the market. So we decided to jump in and create the website for these people that have similar interests,” Merenkov said. He called sexual asphyxiation the “main fetish” but said cannibalism and sex with dead people also were popular on the website, which is “oriented to people with fetishes that are not considered to be standard.”
He testified that of the 38,000 members, about 4,500 are active users who commonly engage in role play on the site, such as when a woman poses as a witch and a mob of 10 or more angry villagers prepare to hang her.
“The girl could write, ‘I’m shivering from fright. They’re pulling me to the noose. I can feel the rope already on my neck,'” he testified.
Merenkov said he did not know anything about Valle when the FBI contacted him. He said he tried to find communications involving Valle, but they apparently were lost when Valle quit the website in September.
The prosecutor asked him if some subjects discussed on the website would be illegal if they were carried out, such as sex with dead bodies.
“Yes, but reality is one thing and fantasy is completely a different thing,” Merenkov responded.
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