Jurors appeared uncomfortable Monday as prosecutors showed a video of a screaming woman made to appear as if she were being cooked alive over an open flame and other disturbing images from websites devoted to torturing and eating women — evidence prosecutors say proves a New York City police officer was involved in a cannibalism plot.
Officer Gilberto Valle frequently visited websites showing women in various stages of forced duress, including one that offered images of women who did not survive, FBI computer forensics examiner Stephen Flatly testified at Valle's kidnapping conspiracy trial.
"Some are dead. ... A couple of them appeared to have been strangled," he said.
As Flatly described the images that were displayed on video monitors in federal court in Manhattan, some jurors put their hands over their mouths. One shook her head. Another wiped his brow.
One cannibalism website allegedly visited by Valle promised customers they would "only receive the highest quality human beef." The jury also heard how the officer allegedly looked up "how to tie up a girl," ''human meat recipes" and other topics the defense says were part of a fetish fantasy that never posed a real threat.
The FBI analysis of Valle's laptop yielded an apparently staged video of a naked screaming woman hanging over an open flame that lashed close to her skin. Flatly did not say where the video might have originated. There also were several photos of women with bright red apples stuffed in their mouths.
Two images of naked women roasting on a giant spit were discovered in a computer file of several dozen photographs that Valle kept on a former college friend that prosecutors have identified as a target of the alleged plot to kidnap, torture and eat women. The face of one woman prosecutors say he targeted was cut out and pasted onto a cartoon of a woman being boiled in a pot.
Prosecutors also had wanted to present up to 34 exhibits of even more ghastly images found on Valle's computer depicting women being tortured, dead bodies and body parts. The photos included a picture of a dead body with the feet cut off — an image Valle's wife testified she saw when she went to one of his favorite sites and discovered why he stayed up late online.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe ruled they were not admissible because they were automatically stored in cache files on Valle's computer. "What we don't have is proof that he ever saw the images here," he said at the start of the second week of the trial.
But the judge permitted the screenshots of Valle's Internet searches about cannibalism. Also admitted was evidence the officer looked up articles written about the rape and murder of a young woman and others about a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered in California.
Valle, 28, has been held without bail since his October arrest. Throughout the trial, which began last week, his lawyers have attacked government evidence as nothing more than the reflection of a man engaging in extreme sexual fantasies with like-minded people around the world. The government has conceded that Valle never met the purported Internet co-conspirators and that no women were harmed.
Jurors have heard testimony from Valle's estranged wife and from former classmates and other women who said they knew Valle on a casual basis and never considered him dangerous. Their testimony was followed by evidence that all of them were the subjects of emails and chats describing how they could be snatched away and eaten.
The government was to conclude its case on Monday. The defense was expected to begin its case by playing the videotaped deposition of the Russian operator of a fetish website that Valle frequented.