NEW YORK -- A prosecutor argued Thursday that the FBI had to grab a New York City police officer last year before he could go forward with a macabre scheme to abduct and cannibalize women that was "no joke," while his lawyer dismissed the allegations as "no more real than an alien invasion."
Officer Gilberto Valle was in the midst of a plot to "kidnap, torture, rape and commit other horrific acts" on at least six women he knew, including his wife, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman told a Manhattan jury in closing arguments at Valle's kidnapping conspiracy trial.
"The law does not require that we wait until he carries out his crime," she said.
The defense claims Valle is being prosecuted for indulging in offensive-but-harmless fantasies fed by his visits to fetish websites meant solely for role-play.
His attorney, Julia 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."
She also compared the Valle case to infamous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast in 1938 that, according to myth, caused some people to flee their homes.
Likewise, Valle's disturbing online interplay may have caused his wife to panic and report him to the FBI. But, she added, "His stories are no more real than the alien invasion. ... Gil Valle is accused of a crime he didn't commit."
But Waxman argued the evidence shows that Valle "left the world of fantasy and entered the world of reality."
The officer's actions were "no joke," she added. "It was not just sick entertainment."
The prosecutor said 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.
At trial, the jury heard the testimony of women who knew Valle and were trading innocent-sounding emails and texts with him at the same time he was making elaborate plans to make meals out of them.
"Women who wanted no part of this were put in grave danger by that man, Gilberto Valle," Waxman said.
Lawyers for the baby-faced Valle, who cried when his wife testified against him, say he made up elaborate plans but did nothing to make any of them happen. The lawyers presented evidence from witnesses that Valle did not have any of the tools of the torture he described in instant message chats and emails, and did not own an upstate home where he had suggested he could cook a victim.
On two occasions, jurors seemed unnerved when they were shown sadistic pornography including what appeared to be a staged video of a chained, naked woman screaming as the flame of a torch was put beneath her crotch.
The trial also left Valle fighting back tears at times, including after the jury left the courtroom following the conclusion of the presentation of evidence on Tuesday.
"I think it's just the knowledge that we're finally coming to a conclusion and his fate is in the jury's hands," defense attorney Robert Baum said.