NEW YORK, N.Y. – Gilberto Valle’s mind is full of sick thoughts — and he wants a jury to know it.
The New York City police officer accused of kidnapping conspiracy admits to thinking about abducting, cooking and devouring young women. His own lawyer has shown prospective jurors a kinky staged photo of a woman trussed up in a roasting pan to their test tolerance for the officer’s “weird proclivities.”
The baby-faced tabloid sensation known as the “Cannibal Cop” is even expected to take the stand to make the case that it was all fantasy, that his online chats were so offensive, so over-the-top that they couldn’t possibly be taken seriously.
If jurors were to believe that the countless people who visit fetish chat rooms were real cannibals, then where’s the horrific feeding frenzy?
It’s a gambit that will begin to play out Monday with opening statements in one of the city’s most bizarre federal court cases in recent memory.
Valle, a 28-year-old college grad and father, was just another NYPD patrolman until late last year, when he was charged with conspiring to kidnap a woman and unauthorized use of a law enforcement database.
Beyond the tabloid headlines that blared “Finest Young Cannibal” and “Cook ‘em Danno,” the accusations were startling and serious: The FBI, following a tip from Valle’s estranged wife, unearthed an alleged plot to cook and eat dozens of women, all graphically detailed in a trail of emails, computer files and instant messages. A conviction on the kidnapping count carries a possible life sentence.
“I’m planning on getting me some girl meat,” he allegedly wrote in one chat room. “It’s this November, for Thanksgiving. … She’s not a volunteer. She has to be abducted.”
Another purported target was an 18-year-old high school student who Valle wrote was “the most desirable piece of meat I’ve ever met” and was small enough to fit in his oven.
A criminal complaint claimed that Valle had created a computer file cataloging at least 100 women with their names, addresses and photos. And it accused him of illegally culling some of the information from the restricted law enforcement database, and doing surveillance on some of his potential victims.
A New Jersey man also was charged with scheming with Valle to kidnap, rape and murder a Manhattan woman and is awaiting trial. He too says he intended no harm.
At a bail hearing, prosecutors insisted Valle was a would-be killer who should be jailed without bail. A judge agreed, calling the charges “profoundly disturbing” and “the most depraved, most dangerous conduct that can be imagined.”
Rather than deny the depravity, defence attorney Julia Gatto immediately began mounting a defence to highlight it, to drive home the argument that Valle’s only appetite was for fantasies.
“The government’s case is nothing more than a hard drive full of disturbing, sexually deviant talk between my client and other men who share his, albeit weird, proclivities,” she said.
The defence has been bolstered by pretrial rulings that will allow Valle’s lawyers to call expert witnesses expected to give jurors a tutorial on online sexual deviance and fetishes often called “vore,” short for carnivore.
A clinical sexologist will testify about sexually explicit websites that “resemble improvisational theatre,” court papers say. “The style is to maintain the repartee, regardless of how implausible, ridiculous or even impossible the conversations gets.”
A forensic psychiatrist and criminologist who examined Valle and contends most men “who have sexually sadistic fantasies … engage in no harmful actions toward others,” the papers say.
The witness found that Valle has no serious mental illness or personality disorders related to violence. Instead, he says, the defendant has recurring fantasies of sexual sadism — a condition known as paraphilia.
The jury also will be shown the videotaped testimony of a Moscow man who created darkfetishnet.com. He’s expected to testify that he modeled his website after Facebook so those with similar sexual fantasies could share their interests.
The site claims more than 38,000 members and cautions that it “is for all fantasies, not real death.” A 38-year-old member from the United States says in his profile that he enjoys “the thought of torturing girls in the most horrific ways. I’ve been a freak since my early teens and I don’t see this changing.”
During jury selection, the defence quizzed candidates on whether they have a bias against people who frequent websites depicting sadomasochistic behaviour.
At trial’s end, Valle’s fate will rest with a jury of six men and six women, most of whom are college-educated and have lived in Manhattan or New York’s suburbs most of their lives. One collects antiques. Two are amateur musicians.
A 50-year-old woman on the jury wrote of her film preferences: “Without my husband, horror movies; with my husband, everything else.”
Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.