Closings begin at NY officer's cannibal plot trial

NEW YORK (AP) - A prosecutor has told a jury that a New York City police officer was a would-be cannibal who was plotting to eat women before his arrest last year.

The remarks came Thursday during closing arguments at the federal trial of Officer Gilberto Valle (VAL'-ee).

The FBI began investigating Valle after his estranged wife reported his online chats about abducting, killing and eating women, including her. But his lawyers say he's being prosecuted for indulging in harmless fantasies.

During the two-week trial, jurors have viewed disturbing images of women being tortured and strangled.

The 28-year-old Valle could face life in prison if convicted on a kidnapping charge.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A jury was set to hear closing arguments on Thursday in the grim case of a police officer accused of conspiring with Internet friends to kidnap, kill, cook and eat women.

Prosecutors say Officer Gilberto Valle had extensive discussions with at least three men he met on an extreme sexual fetish website to attack up to six women he knew, including his wife.

During the two-week trial, the government has tried to prove Valle was serious about the plans by showing jurors evidence that he illegally researched some of the women through a national crime database and haggled with a Trenton, N.J., man, Michael Vanhise, over whether it would cost $4,000 or $5,000 to abduct a Manhattan teacher who would be delivered to his home in a suitcase for him to rape and murder. Vanhise, who has pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy charge, is incarcerated without bail and awaits trial.

Lawyers for the baby-faced 28-year-old Valle, who cried when his weepy wife testified against him for the government, say he was indulging in fantasies on the Internet, describing elaborate plans but doing nothing to make any of them happen. The lawyers elicited evidence from witnesses that Valle did not have any of the tools of the torture he described in instant chats and emails with his Internet acquaintances and did not own an upstate home where he had suggested he could take a victim.

On two occasions, jurors seemed extra fidgety when they were shown sadistic pornography including what appeared to be a staged video of a chained, naked woman screaming as the flame of a torch was put beneath her crotch.

The trial also left Valle emotional at times, including after the jury left the courtroom following the conclusion of the presentation of evidence on Tuesday.

"I think it's just the knowledge that we're finally coming to a conclusion and his fate is in the jury's hands," defense attorney Robert Baum said.

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