NEW YORK, N.Y. - A jury was asked Thursday to decide whether a New York City police officer was a monster with a badge and a dangerous desire to cannibalize women or a troubled family man whose disturbing fantasies ruined his life but never put anyone in jeopardy.
The jurors began deliberating after hearing the conflicting portraits of Officer Gilberto Valle in closing arguments at his kidnapping conspiracy trial.
Valle's elaborate chats with fellow users of fetish websites about abducting, torturing and eating at least six women, including his wife, "are no more real than an alien invasion," defence attorney Julia Gatto said in closing arguments at Valle's murder conspiracy trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman told jurors the evidence showed Valle "left the world of fantasy and entered the world of reality."
The arguments came at the close of a two-week trial that has made the baby-faced officer a tabloid sensation. The officer openly wept over his wife's testimony describing how she uncovered his late-night computer activity, fled their home with their infant child and contacted the FBI.
Valle's arrest last year interrupted a ghoulish plan to "kidnap, torture, rape and commit other horrific acts on young women," Waxman said.
The prosecutor argued that the 28-year-old officer took concrete steps to further the plot — looking up potential targets on a restricted law enforcement database, searching the Internet for how to knock someone out with chloroform and showing up on the block of one woman after agreeing to kidnap her for $5,000.
He also viewed a clip of the slaughter of a goat — a "gruesome video ... a practical how-to guide to killing, an educational tool for Valle's killing," the prosecutor said.
The government stressed that Valle was more of a threat because he was a police officer.
The defence says Valle is being prosecuted for indulging in offensive but harmless fantasies fed by visits to websites meant solely for role play.
Gatto started her closing by reading from a 2012 Valle email saying, "I just have a world in my mind and in that world I am kidnapping women and selling them to people interested in buying them."
The attorney called her client's obsession with cannibalism a "stupid, infantile" habit that destroyed his life but not proof of a conspiracy with three others who he never met in person.
The jury also heard the testimony of women who knew Valle and were trading innocent-sounding emails and texts with him at the same time he was scheming to make meals out of them.
Gatto argued Valle's only crime was fantasizing about doing sick things to women he knew.
"That's Gill's porn," she said. "Gil has a fetish. He's had it for a long time."
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