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Defense set to start at NY cannibalism-plot trial

  • Article by: TOM HAYS and LARRY NEUMEISTER
  • Associated Press
  • March 5, 2013 - 1:52 AM

NEW YORK - The defense team for a New York police officer charged with conspiring to kidnap, kill and eat women is ready to make its case to a Manhattan jury after the government finished presenting evidence by showing what it found on the officer's computer — images including a video of a chained woman screaming as the flame of a torch lashes her body.

Defense attorneys Tuesday planned to present evidence beginning with the videotaped testimony of a Russian man who runs a fetish website where the government says Officer Gilberto Valle, 28, met co-conspirators interested in capturing, raping, killing, cooking and eating women.

Sergey Merenkov, 34, said in testimony videotaped Feb. 19 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.

Testimony by the man who says his primary job is to distribute Spanish ice cream in Moscow will be aimed at supporting defense arguments that Valle was role playing when he spoke in dramatic details with others on the Internet about killing and cooking at least six women he knew, including his wife.

After prosecutors finished showing their evidence Monday, defense attorney Edward Vas argued 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. The government has conceded that Valle never met the purported Internet co-conspirators and that no women were harmed.

Valle was arrested in October after his wife discovered the chats on his computer and fled their Queens home, turning a computer over to the FBI in Reno, Nev.

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," 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 FBI analysis of Valle's laptop yielded an apparently staged video of a naked, screaming woman hanging over an open flame that came close to her skin. 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 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.

His browsing history also revealed an article titled "Cannibalism can be addictive, expert says."

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