With just one day of direct testimony and three witnesses, the defense has rested in the trial of a New York police officer accused of conspiring to abduct women in a cannibalism plot.
Jurors are expected to hear final arguments in the trial of Gilberto Valle on Thursday, with Wednesday devoted to lawyers from both sides and the judge working without the jury present.
Valle, who was suspended without pay after his arrest last fall, is charged with conspiracy to kidnap and accessing a law enforcement database illegally. The government concluded its case Monday, with prosecutors contending that Valle was “deadly serious” about online plans allegedly to kidnap, rape, torture, cook and eat women.
Defense attorneys have argued that their client’s conduct was “pure fiction,” “make believe” and fantasy role-playing. None of Valle’s alleged targets was ever victimized.
Valle did not take the stand during the trial.
Testimony Tuesday underscored the fantasy argument by the defense.
The Russian creator of a website and an online fetish network allegedly frequented by Valle said in a taped deposition that the site he created was for “legal” fetishes and is intended for “fantasy only.”
Earlier prosecution testimony centered on Valle’s involvement with the site and its network. He carried out extensive e-mail and electronic conversations with users of the site discussing kidnapping and cannibalizing women, according to prosecution witnesses.
Speaking from Moscow on tape and in Russian, with his remarks translated into English for the courtroom, Sergay Merenkov said he created his site of “dark fetishes” because “we saw a niche in the market and we created this website for these people that have this kind of interest — (for) all fetishes that exist, that are legal.”
But on cross-examination, Merenkov admitted he saw discussions of rape and murder on members’ pages.
“We wrote the rule so people could distinguish between reality and fantasy,” said Merenkov, defending the site and a message he posted on safety.
In the taped deposition, which was recorded last month, Merenkov admitted he has had to kick users off because of conversations they were having through the website, explaining in those cases, “It could have led to something bad.”
Merenkov said that photos on the site are supposed to feature models playing out fantasies and not real victims, but he conceded that in some instances there were real photos on the site that users had posted, specifically crime-scene photos.
Alexandra Katz, a paralegal for the defense, testified that she looked up Valle’s profile under the screen name “girl meat hunter.” On his account she testified she read comments he wrote about himself such as, “I like to push the envelope but no matter what I say it’s all fantasy.”
Micheal McDermott, who has worked for the NYPD for 24 years, was the defense’s final witness. During McDermott’s last eight years, he was the union delegate for the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. McDermott testified that it was a very common thing among police officers to give out PBA cards, something the prosecution previously argued Valle did as a ruse to obtain home addresses from his alleged victims.
By Kristina Sgueglia
CNN’s Raelyn Johnson contributed to this report.
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