Lawyer: NJ man in cannibalism case wanted FBI help
She claims he went to police multiple times to report people he believed were serious about cannibalism
By Larry Neumesiter
NEW YORK — The lawyer for a New Jersey man accused of conspiring with a New York City police officer to rape and murder a Manhattan woman said Thursday he was pleased when the FBI showed up on his doorstep.
"He was happy," attorney Alice Fontier said of her 22-year-old client, Michael Vanhise. "He was ready and willing to cooperate and help the FBI."
Fontier said the Trenton, N.J., auto mechanic had been trying for some time to ascertain who on a fetish website was serious about carrying out acts that were supposed to remain fantasies and had gone to police on at least four occasions to report people, but was repeatedly sent away.
After the FBI showed up in October, she said, Vanhise hoped to "get these people apprehended" and cooperated for several months, even sending messages to others on the agency's behalf before he was arrested last week.
The lawyer made the comments before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III rejected bail for Vanhise, saying he should remain incarcerated until trial on a kidnapping conspiracy charge that could result in a life prison sentence if he is convicted.
Pauley said the case contained "shocking, depraved and violent" acts that prosecutors say were not just deviant fantasies, as defense lawyers have argued.
He said the website where the defendants had conversed was "a website catering to very sick individuals."
Pauley spoke after prosecutors said that Vanhise had shared information and photographs with others about young nieces and had engaged in a conversation about sexually abusing a newborn.
With his ruling, Pauley became the eighth judge to reject bail for Vanhise and police Officer Gilberto Valle. The officer was arrested in October and is scheduled to go on trial next month.
Prosecutors say Vanhise arranged to pay Valle $5,000 to kidnap a Manhattan woman who he could then rape and kill in New Jersey. Authorities have said Vanhise confessed to FBI agents that he meant to carry out the plot.
The 28-year-old Valle has been charged with planning to abduct, rape, murder and eat women. No women were injured in either case.
Lawyers for both men say they were part of an online sexual fetish network where conversations describe gruesome acts that were meant only as fantasies, no matter how real the online chats made them sound.
Fontier said she had signed up for a website as part of her work on the case and within 24 hours had received messages from others among the 37,000 members who wanted to "hang me, rape me, torture me and eat me."
Outside court, she said the "case will test the boundaries of what the First Amendment means."
"It's speech that is frightening and speech that people hate but it's speech," Fontier said.
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