NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court denied bail Tuesday for a New York City police officer charged with conspiring to rape, kill and eat women after a judge cited evidence that the case wasn't built on a fantasy.
The three judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with three lower-court judges that Gilberto Valle should remain imprisoned until his trial, which is scheduled to start next week but is likely to be delayed several weeks.
Their decision was announced without additional comment immediately after oral arguments. Valle was charged last year with using a law-enforcement database between last January to Oct. 24 as he made plans to kidnap, rape, kill and eat women while communicating with others on a website devoted to the exploration of deviant sexual fantasies. Defense lawyers have said all along he was engaging in sexual fantasies and intended no violence.
During Tuesday's arguments, defense lawyer Edward Zas said Valle was just like 40,000 other people who go online to "engage in the most heinous depraved chats but they are imaginary."
Circuit Judge Chester J. Straub questioned how the defense could argue that the case was built solely on fantasies when there was evidence that Valle and others used real names, engaged in surveillance and discussed how much money would be charged to kidnap a woman.
Zas said aspects of the government's case were already crumbling, including its claim that he went to Maryland to do surveillance on a woman, who now says she knew the police officer and there was nothing unusual about his visit.
Zas called the prosecution misguided and predicted Valle would be exonerated.
"He's done nothing except imagine bad things and put them foolishly on the Internet in a very bad way," Zas said. "If there is just role playing ... there is no crime at all. The only crime is in Mr. Valle's imagination."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman told the court that the government had inadvertently mischaracterized the purpose of Valle's visit with the woman in Maryland but added that there was plenty of other evidence that went beyond fantasy.
She said, for instance, that Valle had accessed the recipe for chloroform and sent it to a co-conspirator and had an operating plan for kidnapping and cooking women. A co-defendant arrested in the case also has been denied bail.
The prosecutor said Valle had created plots that were a "depraved, disgusting, troubling, gruesome" blueprint for kidnappings, and she noted that his wife had insisted on removing their daughter from their home.
"He risked his job, his marriage, his child and his freedom to engage in these acts," she said.
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