Wednesday, February 27, 2013

At Trial, Officer’s Friend Recalls Abduction Threat

At Trial, Officer’s Friend Recalls Abduction Threat
Published: February 26, 2013

She had been friends with the New York police officer since their college days in Maryland, and they kept in touch mostly through text messages over the years. So when she was warned of his bizarre threat against her, she said, she immediately dismissed it.

The warning had arrived in a message via Facebook, and the woman, Kimberly Sauer, took it as a sure sign that the sender’s account had been compromised. The message came from the wife of the old friend, Gilberto Valle, and it suggested that he had designs on selling Ms. Sauer into “white slavery.”

Ms. Sauer, who testified on Tuesday on the second day of Officer Valle’s trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, was one of five women who have now testified for the prosecution, which is trying to prove that the officer plotted to kidnap, rape, kill and cannibalize women. The officer’s lawyer has argued that he had merely fantasized carrying out such acts, engaging in deviant role-playing in Internet chat rooms with no intention of doing any harm. Charges against the officer include conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

Ms. Sauer, 29, testified that she took a screen shot of the Facebook message from the officer’s wife and sent it to him, with her own message and a joke. Had Officer Valle’s Facebook account been hacked, she asked, or was he actually trying to sell her into white slavery?

Not that I am aware of, Officer Valle responded, Ms. Sauer recalled.

But by day’s end, prosecutors had introduced testimony and other evidence that the government asserted were the officer’s actual plans for Ms. Sauer, which underscored the challenge that the defense faces in convincing jurors that the officer’s alleged conspiracy was all a fantasy.

Prosecutors have cited a brunch in Maryland, where Officer Valle, his wife and their baby traveled to visit Ms. Sauer, as an example of how he conducted surveillance on one of his intended victims. The defense has portrayed the brunch as an innocuous meeting between college friends.

On Tuesday, Corey Walsh, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified that a search of personal computers Officer Valle used showed that he had created files on scores of potential victims like Ms. Sauer.

Officer Valle had also created a document he called “Abducting and Cooking Kimberly, a Blueprint,” evidence showed.

Although the document cited a Kimberly Shea, Agent Walsh said the woman was Ms. Sauer.

Officer Valle had listed Ms. Sauer’s ethnicity, age, weight, shoe and bra sizes, and noted that she had no tattoos and did not smoke or use drugs. It gave a target date for the abduction as Sept. 2, 2012.

“I will arrive at some point Sunday night at her home to kidnap her,” he wrote to a reputed co-conspirator in Britain. He also listed “materials needed,” including a car, chloroform, gloves, rope and duct tape to gag her with.

The government also introduced an exchange of electronic messages that it said Officer Valle had with the co-conspirator in Britain, who goes by screen names like Moody Blues.

“I’m having lunch with Kimberly on Sunday,” the officer wrote in July 2012.

The co-conspirator replied: “Be aware you will be a possible suspect when she goes missing. Get your alibi in early.”

Officer Valle wrote at one point: “I just enjoy the thought of making her suffer.”

His messages became even more explicit and disturbing as he proposed a way to kill victims in preparation for eating them. “I’ve been told that stringing the victim up by her feet and cutting her throat is another idea. Letting her bleed out then butcher her while she hangs.”

“I just can’t wait to get Kimberly cooking,” he said at one point.

The F.B.I. agent testified that Officer Valle had also exchanged messages about another woman, a college student who had graduated from his high school, Archbishop Molloy, in Queens, and who had played softball.

In one message, Officer Valle said he wanted to find a way to keep the woman unconscious. The co-conspirator suggested in a message that he knock her out with a baseball bat.

The student, Kristen Ponticelli, testified that she had never met or talked to Officer Valle. None of the women who prosecutors say the officer singled out were kidnapped or harmed.

At one point last year, Ms. Sauer said, Officer Valle wrote to her, asking for her address so that he could send her a police union card. “Just keep it hush-hush because I can’t give one to everyone,” Officer Valle wrote, adding that he could make no guarantees, but that the card was “like a free pass for a minor traffic violation.”

A prosecutor, Randall W. Jackson, told Judge Paul G. Gardephe out of the presence of the jury that the card was the kind of ploy Officer Valle used to gain addresses and other personal data from potential victims. He was also trying to establish “a relationship of trust with them,” Mr. Jackson added.

On cross-examination, Officer Valle’s lawyer, Julia L. Gatto, elicited testimony from Ms. Sauer and a third woman, whom he had known from high school, that Officer Valle had never been abusive to them. Ms. Sauer acknowledged that she knew Officer Valle as a nonviolent person. She also said she had not been upset to receive the union card, and had kept it in her wallet.

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