Computer files in spotlight at trial of alleged 'cannibal cop'
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Jurors in the alleged "cannibal cop" trial were taken on a journey into the dark recesses of defendant Gilberto Valle's computers Monday, from Google searches for "what to look for in human meat" to cartoons of naked women being boiled and a staged video of a screaming woman being burned.
FBI expert Stephen Flatley, who explored the hard drives of two laptops used by Valle, said he also found file folders with pictures, mostly taken from Facebook, of 79 women and visits to websites with names like "Cannibal Café" and "Man Beef."
But in one of the few light moments of a gruesome trial, Flatley testified that searches with subjects like "death fetish" and "Good Methods to kidnap someone?" at one point led Valle to a Web page titled, "If you're kidnapping someone, maybe don't search Google for kidnapping?"
Valle, 28, a six-year NYPD veteran, is charged in federal court in Manhattan with conspiring in Internet chats with three men to abduct, abuse and eat six women, and with misusing a police database. He is not accused of actually hurting anyone, and says that he was only engaged in fantasy role play, not real plots.
Prosecutors rested Monday, and U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe reserved judgment on a defense motion to dismiss the case for insufficient evidence. The defense plans to present testimony from the owner of the site where Valle met his chat partners, and an expert on a sexual disorder called "paraphilia" typified by role-playing fantasies.
Defense lawyer Edward Zas told Gardephe that Valle hasn't decided whether to testify, but if he does, he will have to "go through every masturbatory fantasy he has had since he was a teenager to explain what was really going on."
In rulings Monday morning, Gardephe prohibited prosecutors from introducing dozens of pictures of abused and mutilated women found stored on Valle's computers because they might have been automatically stored while he was surfing the Web, without actually being viewed by Valle.
Even without those "cached" photos, prosecutors were able to introduce multiple images that Valle had manually stored -- including an "album page" from a website with pictures of dead women, the video titled "Girl Being Burned," and the cartoons, one of which had the face of a woman Valle knew superimposed on a naked figure stuffed into a kettle.
On cross-examination, however, Flatley acknowledged he had testified about only a "small subset" of Valle's web-surfing history -- which also included lots of searches about the care of Valle's dog, and visits to Yankees.com, mlb.com and Weight Watchers.