New York's alleged cannibal cop burst into tears at the end of a trial on Thursday as his lawyer said he was guilty of no more than "ugly thoughts" and prosecutors dubbed him a dangerous sadist.
The case, which has riveted the Big Apple tabloid media and raised questions about freedom of speech, was left for the Manhattan federal court jury to decide.
Gilberto Valle (28) is accused of conspiracy to kidnap young women, including his wife, whom he would then torture, kill and eat.
Although no women were actually harmed, the man dubbed the "Cannibal Cop" in US media, discussed the gruesome plans with other men in exchanges on websites dedicated to extreme sexual fetishes.
Valle could face a sentence of life in prison if convicted. He is also charged with the lesser crime of illegally accessing the police database.
In an impassioned final statement, his lawyer Julia Gatto said Valle had a disturbing, but far from unique sexual fantasy about cannibalizing 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," Gatto added. "Gilberto Valle is accused of a crime he didn't commit."
The accused man sobbed, as he frequently has during his trial, when Gatto told the jury that her client had already lost his reputation, his career, his marriage and young child over the case.
But prosecutors matched the legal fireworks with statements painting Valle as a ticking bomb who had to be stopped before he had a chance to put his online discussions — and internet searches on kidnapping and killing techniques — 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," Assistant US Attorney 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."
Gatto described 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 Valle was a "sadistic person."
"The evidence in this case is overwhelming," he told the jury, almost shouting at times. "He has no right at this point to ask you to bail him out."
Jackson lashed out at the defence attorneys' suggestions that the right to free speech enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution was at stake in the trial.
"They've said this repeatedly, that the government's the thought police. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment," Jackson said. "Mr Valle is not an author."
Referring to the well-known concept of free speech not including the malicious shouting of "fire" in a crowded theatre, Jackson said: "The limits of free speech are what will actually place real people in harm."
Jackson said Valle's claim to have been participating in harmless fantasies about abducting and eating women was no more valid than someone claiming they could take part in a pretend bank robbery or airplane hijacking.
"The word 'fantasy' has been completely misused and corrupted here," he said. "You think of the stories you told your children, fairies, pixie dust. Gilberto Valle's fantasies are about seeing women executed."
Gatto said the authorities failed to understand the extreme fetish subculture and were confusing fiction with fact.
To back up her argument, she showed the jury an email written by her client early last year: "I just have a world in my mind, and in that world, I'm kidnapping women and selling them," he wrote.
Gatto said that email "explains the entire case."
"There really was a world in his mind," she added, calling on the jury "to protect all our rights."