NEW YORK — In the middle of one of his thousands of Internet conversations about cannibalism, Gilberto Valle paused and claimed he’d never really do it.
“I just like pushing the envelope,” he wrote to another man.
The remark demonstrated the government’s challenge of explaining to a jury how they separated flesh-eating fantasy from reality at the New York City police officer’s kidnapping conspiracy trial in federal court in Manhattan.
The defense went on the attack Wednesday, attempting to show that the FBI arbitrarily built their case on roughly 40 emails and chats that agents deemed real evidence of the 28-year-old Valle’s plot to abduct, torture and eat women — even though the missives are largely indistinguishable from those the same analysis dismissed as role play.
On cross-examination in federal court, FBI agent Corey Walsh confirmed that authorities had written off one message about a real 18-year-old who’s a witness in the case as fantasy, even though another message with nearly identical wording was viewed as a real threat against her.
The woman was “one of the most desirable pieces of meat I’ve ever met,” Valle wrote.
The agent also conceded the entire batch of emails had running themes: Valle discussing how to cook women, how much it would cost to abduct them and which women would make good targets. Whether found to be real or fake, the emails contained some of the same names of real women and their photographs.
“Isn’t it a fact that some of the chats you found to be fantasies involved cooking women?” Defense Attorney Robert Baum asked in questioning that was to continue on Thursday.
“It could have been,” Walsh answered.
Through the cross-examination, the defense also has sought to remind jurors that no women were ever kidnapped or harmed and that Valle never had contact with his supposed co-conspirators outside the Internet. Also, no evidence of a crime was found in his apartment besides a computer — no rope, pulleys or chemicals to render someone unconscious despite Valle’s Internet boasts that he wanted to assemble a torture chamber or that he had an upstate New York property where he could cook women.
Prior to cross examination, Walsh showed jurors graphic X-rated communications between Valle and a butcher in India early last year as they discussed plans to torture and cook Valle’s soon-to-be wife and a former college roommate.
“I have longed to butcher and cook female meat,” Valle told the man identified as Aly Khan, Walsh said. Khan offered to provide a place in Pakistan to kill the woman once she was brought to India, the agent said.
In an Internet chat read by Walsh, Valle seemed eager to offer the woman he would marry a few months later to Khan, though he added: “She is a sweet girl. I like her a lot. But I will move on.”
Valle wrote that he could bring her to India and then Pakistan, where they could gag her in a basement, hang her from her feet and take turns sexually assaulting her before slitting her throat and cooking her.
“I just love the thought of stringing her upside down,” Valle wrote in an email shown to jurors. He said he would like “to see her suffer” and “slowly roast her until she dies.”
In a later email, Khan taunted Valle.
“Are you really into it?” he asked.
“Yes,” Valle answered.
“Are you sure?” Khan asked.
“Definitely,” Valle said.
Khan, seemingly content, said: “Get your mind ready. I will guide the rest.”
Later, Valle discussed plans to attack a 27-year-old Columbus, Ohio, woman he knew in college.
“I want her to experience being cooked alive,” he said in one exchange. “She’ll be trussed up like a turkey. … She’ll be terrified, screaming and crying.”
He wrote that her death would “definitely make the news” and there will be “plenty of suspects” because she is a prosecutor.
The woman, Andria Noble, testified Monday she never knew Valle to be violent when they both attended the University of Maryland.
Valle could face life in prison if he is convicted of conspiracy and illegal use of a crime database.