Published November 30, 2015
The defense team for a New York City police officer charged with conspiring to kidnap, kill and eat women was ready to make its case Tuesday after the government showed what it found on the officer's computer -- images including an apparently staged video of a chained woman screaming as the flame of a torch lashes her body.
Defense attorneys said Gilberto Valle, 28, would not testify.
The defense planned to begin with the videotaped testimony of a Russian man who runs a fetish website where the government says Valle met co-conspirators interested in capturing, raping, killing, cooking and eating women.
Sergey Merenkov, 34, said in videotaped testimony that he started the darkfetishnet web site with partners in 2010 to create a Facebook-like environment for people with kinky fantasies to communicate. He said the majority of the 4,500 active users, 25 percent of which he estimates to be women, are in the United States or Europe.
According to a transcript already in court records, the Moscow resident will testify people commonly engage in role play on the website, 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.
The testimony will be aimed at supporting defense arguments that Valle was role-playing when he spoke with others online about killing and cooking at least six women he knew, including his wife.
The government has conceded that Valle never met the purported Internet co-conspirators, and that no women were harmed.
After prosecutors finished showing their evidence Monday, defense attorney Edward Vas argued that Valle should be exonerated by the judge because the government failed to show there was "a true second participant" in the supposed conspiracy, only fellow role-playing Internet friends.
"If this case goes forward, Mr. Valle may well have to take the stand" and recount all his sexual fantasies since his teenage years, Vas said.
The judge did not immediately rule.
Valle was arrested in October after his wife discovered the chats on his computer and fled their home, turning a computer over to the FBI.
In a final flourish Monday, prosecutors revealed the contents of two computers Valle used, including disturbing images from websites devoted to torturing and eating women.
FBI computer forensics examiner Stephen Flatly testified Valle frequently visited several 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," Flatly said.