NEW YORK — A New Jersey man was denied bail Monday in a cannibalism case after a prosecutor said the 22-year-old auto mechanic confessed to the FBI that a plot to kidnap, rape and kill a woman that he planned to carry out with a New York City police officer was more than an Internet fantasy.
Michael Vanhise was ordered detained by U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman three days after he was arrested on charges that he planned a gruesome plot with Officer Gilberto Valle.
Valle, 28, is set for trial in two weeks in Manhattan federal court on charges that he planned to abduct, rape, murder and eat women. No women were injured in either case and Vanhise’s attorney said her client even tried to warn authorities about others he feared might actually commit the acts they discussed in a deviant online fantasy world.
Pitman seemed reluctant to deprive Vanhise of bail until Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson insisted Vanhise had confessed to FBI agents on Friday that he meant to carry out the plot with Valle even though he had said it was fantasy when he was speaking with the FBI several times a week since October.
The prosecutor also said Vanhise, of Trenton, N.J., had sent photographs of his two nieces, ages 7 and 9, as well as a 3-year-old step-daughter, to others who were communicating with him on the Internet about potential victims. And he said Vanhise had conducted surveillance with others of some targets.
Jackson said Vanhise had sent a photograph of the 7-year-old to others online and suggested that his niece “could be kidnapped, could be eaten.”
“He goes far beyond any fantasy,” Jackson said, noting that he haggled with Valle to try to lower the $5,000 fee for the kidnapping of a Manhattan woman.
Pitman then agreed the government had shown Vanhise was a danger to the community, citing “abhorrent, disturbing, dark conduct.”
Still, he gave a nod to the defense arguments of when he said: “I appreciate that the defense here is that it was a fantasy world.”
Vanhise’s attorney, Alice Fontier, argued that Vanhise “thought he was doing something good” when he cooperated fully with the FBI since October, when the FBI seized two computers along with video games from his home.
She said he created a new screen name and approached others online, saying what agents asked him to say on websites where “their conversations are meant to be graphic, meant to be realistic.”
Fontier also called “totally false” the prosecutor’s claim that Vanhise had admitted to the FBI that he is sexually aroused by children and that he was sexually aroused by his own step-daughter.
The lawyer said Vanhise had gone to the Hamilton, N.J., police department on at least four occasions over the last two years to complain that others on the fantasy web site might be interested in carrying out some fantasies but the police had brushed him off. Prosecutors said there’s no police record of Vanhise reporting others from the fantasy web sites.
Fontier said witnesses who accompanied her client to police would testify at his trial. She also cited the support of Vanhise’s wife, who nodded as the lawyer said his wife is “absolutely supportive” and wants her husband back in her life.
Fontier said she believe the case against her client had proceeded in a “slightly bizarre manner” with the FBI first working with Vanhise before charging him with crimes that carry a maximum of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.
Fontier said she agreed with Valle’s lawyer, who on Friday said she believed Vanhise’s arrest was meant to prevent him from testifying in support of Valle at his trial.
“He’s a pawn in that,” Fontier said, promising to appeal the bail ruling.
Valle maintains his innocence.