The government has introduced jurors to women supposedly targeted by a New York police officer accused in a cannibalism plot, but their lack of knowledge of any sinister plans provided an opening for the defense to highlight claims that it was all fantasy.
Elizabeth Sauer, 29, of Germantown, Md., was called as a government witness Tuesday against 28-year-old Officer Gilberto Valle on the second day of his trial on charges that he conspired to kidnap, kill and eat women he had described in chats on a fetish website.
Sauer, a former college classmate of Valle, testified that she received a disturbing Facebook message from Valle's wife last year that sounded so "crazy" that she texted him to warn that the account must have been hacked. Either that "or you're trying to sell me into white slavery," she recalled joking in the text.
On cross examination, Sauer told defense attorney Julia Gatto that she never felt threatened by Valle. Her testimony was similar to that of Andria Noble, a 27-year-old state prosecutor in Columbus, Ohio, who testified late Monday that she never saw Valle to be violent when she knew him at the University of Maryland.
Maureen Hartingan, a former high school classmate of Valle, testified Tuesday as well.
The women were called by the government to show jurors that women Valle described on the Internet were real potential victims of violence.
The officer has claimed his online discussions of cannibalism were harmless fetish fantasies. But in opening statements on Monday, a prosecutor said "very real women" were put in jeopardy.
Valle's wife, 27-year-old Kathleen Mangan-Valle, testified for the government as the trial's first witness that she fled their Queens home with their 1-year-old daughter after learning about her husband's Internet interests.
Days later, she said, she used a program she had installed to trace Valle's keystrokes to learn that he had written hundreds of emails and instant messages chronicling how he and his Internet pals would kidnap, rape, kill, cook and eat various women. Included among the targets, she said, were his wife and their female friends.
Her testimony over several hours was punctuated by sobs so loud that twice breaks were ordered. Valle sobbed loudly as well as the jury was shown photographs in happier times of himself, his wife and their child.
If convicted, Valle could face life in prison. Click here for more about this story.