NEW YORK (CNN) — An NYPD officer is on trial in a federal case stemming from a bizarre online plan allegedly to kidnap, cook and eat women.
Gilberto Valle, who was suspended without pay after his arrest last fall, hung his head and appeared to wipe away tears Monday as his 27-year-old wife, Kathleen Mangan, became the first witness to testify against him.
Mangan, a former Bronx school teacher, was the one who alerted authorities that her husband was involved in fetish websites that talked about kidnapping, torturing, cooking and killing women. She and the couple’s infant daughter moved out of the family’s Queens apartment in September.
Valle, 28, was arrested on October 24, and charged with conspiracy to kidnap a woman.
Prosecutors say, Valle was “deadly serious” about his plan, keeping detailed files and having repeated conversations on a fetish website with co-conspirators in the United States, Europe, India and Pakistan. The site, darkfetishnet.com, claims 38,000 registered users and comes with the disclaimer, “Place for fantasies only” adding, “the weirder the better.”
None of Valle’s alleged targets was ever victimized, though prosecutors say the plans had started to become more concrete.
During opening statements, Valle’s lawyer, Julia L. Gatto, described the conversations as “pure fiction,” telling jurors, “Gil is guilty of having bizarre thoughts and foolishly sharing them on an Internet with others…There’s no crime here, just very disturbing, shocking thoughts.”
The six-year NYPD veteran also is charged with accessing a federal database on at least one occasion, allegedly to get information on one of his supposed “victims.”
During opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson repeatedly emphasized that Valle’s online conversations focused on “very real women,” several of whom knew Valle.
Jackson apologized to the jury in advance of what is expected to be graphic testimony in the trial, saying, “The evidence will be incredibly disturbing and we’re sorry about that.”
Defense lawyers contend that aside from the online chatter, there is no physical evidence Valle had any intention of acting on his fantasy. He never met any of his co-conspirators, did not know their real names or where they lived, never purchased any chemicals to knock out the women, and did not establish any financial account to be paid for the alleged kidnapping, according to Valle’s lawyers.
“It is a mortifying, unusual sexual fetish and it’s embarrassing,” said Gatto, with the defense attorney telling the jury that Valle’s deepest fantasy is “the idea, and the idea alone, of a boiled and bound woman laid out on a platter with an apple in her mouth about to be cooked.”
After the defense offered pictures of the couple’s infant daughter, both Mangan and Valle began to cry hysterically. The court was forced to recess multiple times due to Mangan’s breaking down emotionally while testifying.
The couple married in the summer of 2012 and Mangan later installed software to track what she believed was her husband’s suspicious online activity. Mangan declined the judge’s offer to speak to a court-provided lawyer before testifying against her husband.
The trial is expected to continue Tuesday morning.