NEW YORK: The trial of New York's alleged cannibal cop has ended in a fiery clash between his lawyer, who insists his client is guilty of nothing more than "dirty thoughts", and prosecutors who have dubbed the police officer a sadist.
The case, which has riveted the US city's tabloid media and raised questions about freedom of speech, has been left for the federal court jury to decide.
Gilberto Valle, 28, is accused of conspiracy to kidnap young women that he would then torture, kill and eat.
Former New York City police officer Gilberto Valle, dubbed by local media as the "Cannibal Cop", listens as his wife Kathleen Mangan testifies in this courtroom sketch. Photo: Reuters
Although no women were actually harmed, the man dubbed the "Cannibal Cop" in the US media, discussed the gruesome plans with other men in exchanges on websites dedicated to extreme sexual fetishes.
He could face a sentence of life in prison if convicted.
His lawyer Julia Gatto said in an impassioned final statement on Thursday that Valle had a disturbing, but far from unique, sexual fantasy about cannibalising women.
There was only proof of "ugly thoughts (and) we don't convict human beings just because of ugly thoughts", she said.
"They want you to convict, not because there's proof, but because you won't like the way his mind works," she said.
"Gilberto Valle is accused of a crime he didn't commit."
The accused man burst into tears, as he frequently has during his trial, when Ms Gatto pointed out to the jury he'd already lost his reputation, his career and his marriage and young child because of the case.
But prosecutors matched the legal fireworks with statements painting Mr Valle as a ticking bomb who had to be stopped before he had a chance to put his online discussions into action.
"Officer Valle crossed the line. He left the world of fantasy. He entered the world of reality and, thankfully, he was stopped before he could act," prosecutor Hadassa Waxman said.
"He was serious," she said.
"He was not just fantasising and he would have carried out the plans if he thought he could get away with it - if he had not been stopped."
Ms Gatto described Mr Valle as a "nice, non-violent man", despite his addiction to pornography involving corpses and torture scenes.
She warmly hugged her client after finishing her closing arguments.
But in the government rebuttal - when prosecutors get the last word before jury deliberations - US Attorney Randall Jackson said Mr Valle was "a sadistic person".