By Chris Francescani
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Opening arguments were set to begin Monday afternoon in the federal trial of a New York City police officer accused of plotting last year with a New Jersey man to kidnap, cook and eat a Manhattan woman.
Officer Gilberto Valle says he was simply engaged in online role playing on a website for fans of violent sexual fetishes, and that he never intended to actually commit a crime.
In pre-trial hearings, prosecutors have quoted from a flurry of emails the pair traded last year, in which they appear to discuss the plot in great detail.
Valle, 28, and New Jersey mechanic Michael Van Hise, 22, mused over how to keep the victim alive until she could be cooked.
In one email, Valle warned Van Hise he needed "to definitely make sure" one purported target would not be found.
"She will definitely make news," the email said.
Defense attorneys have pointed to many of the same details to make a conflicting point.
"The whole purpose of this role play is to make it as realistic as possible," attorney Alice Fontier, who is representing Van Hise in a separate case, told a judge recently.
Prosecutors say Valle took "concrete steps" to act on the plot, including meeting with one woman from a list of dozens of targets investigators reported finding on his computer. He was also charged with improperly using a federal law enforcement database to get information on another.
Prosecutors over the weekend notified Valle's defense attorney Julia Gatto they were dropping their bid to introduce cell phone records they claimed showed Valle shriveled a third woman.
Valle faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted on a conspiracy to kidnap charge. New York tabloids gleefully dubbed Valle the "Cannibal Cop" after his arrest and suspension from the NYPD last fall.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Alden Bentley)