NEW YORK (AP) — The lawyer for a New Jersey man charged in a kidnap-murder case said Thursday she'll seek to exclude from his trial mention of his ties to a police officer convicted in a cannibalism plot.
Attorney Alice Fontier said cannibalism is too "creepy" for jurors to hear at the upcoming trial of Trenton resident Michael Vanhise. He's scheduled for a November trial on charges stemming from a plot to kidnap and kill women.
"At some point, you really want to cap the creepiness," she said. "To my knowledge, Mr. Vanhise has never discussed cannibalism with anyone and so I don't want it before the jury."
She also said it was likely Vanhise would testify at trial.
"He may be the only one who can credibly say: 'This is what I was thinking about,'" when confronted with things he wrote online, she said.
The attorney spoke outside court after Vanhise and two co-defendants pleaded not guilty to a new indictment.
Vanhise was arrested in January and charged with plotting with former New York police Officer Gilberto Valle to kidnap and murder a Manhattan woman. References to Valle and cannibalism were excluded from descriptions of a kidnapping conspiracy charge in an indictment returned Wednesday.
In the latest court papers, Vanhise was paired with a former librarian at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan and the chief of police at the Bedford Veterans Administration Medical Center in Massachusetts. Both men have been held without bail since their arrest last week on charges that they plotted to kidnap, rape, torture and kill women, children and infants.
All three men were handcuffed and shackled Thursday when they pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors said Valle plotted to kidnap, torture, kill, cook and eat women. He was convicted last month of conspiracy charges and is awaiting sentencing. His lawyers said he was just fantasizing online. Vanhise is expected to use a similar defense, though Fontier said Vanhise also will show jurors that he repeatedly tried to make reports to local police when he came across anyone online who he believed was doing more than fantasizing.
Fontier said Vanhise also has the support of his wife. Valle's wife was a major government witness against him.