Defense poised to open in New York “cannibal cop” kidnap conspiracy trial
For more than a week, jurors in the federal kidnapping conspiracy trial of so-called New York “cannibal cop” Gilberto Valle have been exposed to talk, imagery and video detailing extraordinary brutality against women.
On Tuesday, defense attorneys are set to begin presenting their case but jurors will not get a chance to hear from Valle himself, according to Stephanie Cirkovich, spokeswoman for the District Court in Manhattan.
“I just learned that defendant Valle is not testifying,” Cirkovich said in a statement.
The grim-faced panel – six men and six women – have listened intently as witnesses read excerpts aloud from dozens of Web chats and emails in which Valle talked with others in graphic, often gleeful detail about raping, murdering, cooking and eating women.
Those women included his own now-estranged wife, Kathleen Mangan-Valle, whose tearful testimony against him last week was the emotional crescendo of the prosecution’s case.
On Monday, before resting their case, prosecutors played a video allegedly found on Valle’s computer in which a chained woman shrieks as she appears to be burning alive, according to local media reports.
An FBI computer forensics expert testified that the video appears to be staged using an actress.
Dubbed the “cannibal cop” by local media, Valle has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to kidnap. If convicted, he faces 20 years to life.
Defense attorneys contend that Valle was a member of an Internet subculture where people gather online to act out violent sexual fantasies in cyberspace.
His cyber-plots were “pure fiction,” defense attorney Julia Gatto told jurors last week, no more dangerous than a Stephen King novel or a horror movie.
On Tuesday morning, jurors will hear from a Russian man who runs the fantasy role-play website where Valle’s plots were hatched, Gatto said.
Also expected to testify as a defense witness is forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz, who interviewed serial killer cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.
Valle’s secret online life began to unravel last year after his now-estranged wife said he began acting oddly and spending much of his time on the couple’s computer.
In tearful testimony last week, Kathleen Mangan-Valle said she discovered dozens of files her husband kept on their computer about women he said online he wanted to kidnap, torture and murder.
Among those was a file on Mangan-Valle herself and a number of her friends and work colleagues. She contacted the FBI and Valle was arrested in October.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson has charged that after months of online role play last year, Valle began to act on his fantasies when he met one of his online “targets” for brunch and improperly accessed a law enforcement database to get personal information on another.
Prosecutors have said that out of two dozen online plots to kidnap women, at least three were real.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Maureen Bavdek)