NEW YORK (AP) — Separating real threats from idle talk is a workaday task for law enforcement.
It is rarely easy, but it has taken on extreme complexity in the lurid case of Gilberto Valle, a New York City police officer charged with plotting to kidnap, cook and eat women.
At a conspiracy trial now in its second week, a jury has heard how the officer was part of an international community of fetishists who got their kicks trading wild fantasies about violent acts against women.
His lawyers say it was all harmless fantasy. Prosecutors say it was deadly serious.
The case is extreme, but it touches on a common challenge in law enforcement: deciphering intent without running afoul of the First Amendment.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday.