NEW YORK (AP) — A New York police officer charged with conspiring to kill and eat women does not plan to testify at his Manhattan trial, making it likely that the trial is nearing its end.
Defense lawyers for Officer Gilberto Valle notified the judge that the 28-year-old Queens resident will not be testifying. The lawyers began presenting their case Tuesday morning by showing a videotaped deposition of a Russian man who runs a fetish website.
Sergey Merenkov, 34, testified on Feb. 19 that he and partners started the website in 2010 to create a Facebook-like environment for people with kinky fantasies. Prosecutors say Valle met co-conspirators interested in capturing, raping, killing, cooking and eating women on the site.
Merenkov spoke Russian as he answered questions from a defense lawyer and, later, a prosecutor. Sitting in a leather desk chair and wearing a black T-shirt, he leaned back at one point and put his hands behind his head. He said his primary job is to distribute Spanish ice cream in Moscow.
He testified that the majority of the website’s 4,500 active users — 25 percent of which he estimates to be women — are in the United States or Europe.
The Moscow resident said people commonly engage in role-play on the site, such as when a woman poses as a witch and a mob of 10 or more angry villagers prepare to hang her.
“The girl could write, ‘I’m shivering from fright. They’re pulling me to the noose. I can feel the rope already on my neck,’” he testified.
On cross examination, Merenkov said he did not know anything about Valle when the FBI contacted him last fall. He said he tried to find communications involving Valle but they apparently were lost when Valle quit the website in September.
He said the website now warns its members not to post pictures of people they know, a rule instituted last summer after complaints.
A prosecutor asked him if some subjects discussed on the website would be illegal if they were carried out, such as sex with dead bodies, one of the site’s more popular subjects.
“Yes, but reality is one thing and fantasy is completely a different thing,” he responded.
Merenkov’s testimony was aimed at supporting defense arguments that Valle was role-playing when he spoke in dramatic details with others on the Internet about killing and cooking at least six women he knew, including his wife.
After prosecutors finished showing their evidence Monday, defense attorney Edward Vas argued Valle should be exonerated by the judge because the government failed to show there was “a true second participant” in the supposed conspiracy, only fellow role-playing Internet friends.
The judge did not immediately rule. The government has conceded that Valle never met the purported Internet co-conspirators and that no women were harmed.
Valle was arrested in October after his wife discovered the chats on his computer and fled their home, turning a computer over to the FBI in Reno, Nev. He was charged with conspiring to kidnap, kill and eat women, which carries the potential for a life sentence. He also faces a lesser charge that he illegally accessed a national crime database to research kidnap targets.
Official Wire and AP
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