Prosecutors called accused "cannibal cop" Gilberto Valle a "sexually sadistic" man who crossed over from fantasy to reality, while the defense said he was being persecuted for "ugly thoughts" as Valle's kidnap conspiracy trial went to the jury Thursday.
On a day featuring four hours of impassioned closing arguments from both sides, Valle, a six-year NYPD veteran, held his head and began sobbing as defense lawyer Julia Gatto told the jury how her client had lost his "pretty wife," his baby daughter, and his job and wrecked his life because of his taste for "infantile" fantasies of tormenting women.
"It's disgusting, but it's simply not proof of conspiracy," she told the jury. "It's only proof of ugly thoughts. . . . We don't convict human beings because of ugly thoughts . . . His insensitive, ugly thoughts have cost him everything. But what his thoughts can't cost him, if you follow the law, is his liberty."
In a fierce, podium-pounding rebuttal, prosecutor Randall Jackson told the jurors to think of Valle's online chats about raping and eating women as if the jurors were airplane passengers who overheard men chatting about a hijacking. Seen that way, he said, it's easy to understand why the FBI acted.
"This idea that you should not be disturbed by this man, a police officer walking around New York City with a loaded gun, [who] has a sexual fantasy of seeing women mutilated and harmed . . . that this is something you should just let whistle past?" Jackson said. "You should not."
Valle, 28, from Queens, is accused of conspiring online with three men to kidnap, abuse and eat women he knew, and with misusing a police database to research his targets. He is not accused of ever hurting anyone, and he says all the Internet activity was just fantasy role-playing that turned him on.
Gatto argued the government was initially fooled by the grotesque and detailed plotting in Valle's chats, much like 20th century radio audiences were fooled by Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" into believing Martians were invading -- and then refused to pull the plug when evidence fell short.
"Now they are asking you to convict him, not because there is proof, but because they know you won't like the way his mind works," Gatto said, warning the jury to resist the temptation to use the case to "send a message to the men who think these thoughts."
But Jackson said Valle proved he was serious by conducting Internet searches about chloroform, large cooking pots, knives and women's addresses, and sending pictures of real women to his chat-mates. "This is a man who has a deep-seated desire to harm women, and the evidence shows he was taking actual steps to realize it," he said.The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes, and was scheduled to resume Friday morning morning