Jury selection began in Manhattan federal court on Monday in what’s come to be known as the cannibal cop case where two men are on trial on for planning to torture, kill and eat women.
The two men, Michael Van Hise, 23, a former mechanic from southern New Jersey and Robert Christopher Asch, 61, a former librarian of Stuyvesant High School, face conspiracy charges. This is the second trial in the case.
Hise and Asch were arrested last year in January and April respectively, for allegedly conspiring with former NYPD cop Gilberto Valle to rape, murder and cannibalize women. Last March, Valle was found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap and for illegally accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database. After his trial, he faced the possibility of life in prison. He is still awaiting sentencing, as he filed for an appeal last June.
Hise faces four counts of kidnapping conspiracy and Asch is facing three counts of kidnapping conspiracy. In addition, Asch has been charged for receiving and being in possession of materials that constitute child pornography.
The charges are in conjunction with alleged links to Ricahrd Meltz, the 65-year-old ex-chief of police at the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts. He pled guilty to charges arising from his involvement in two separate conspiracies to kidnap, rape, and murder specific women earlier this year. Meltz will be sentenced in May and faces up to ten years in prison.
According to a press release by the U.S Attorney’s office, between the spring of 2011 and January 2013, Meltz, Asch, and Hise engaged in a series of electronic e-mail and instant message communications during which they discussed and planned the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Hise’s wife and other members of Hise’s family. Valle was involved in similar types of exchanges with Hise and Asch.
Both Asch and Hise have been held without bail since their arrests last year. Their case is set for trial as soon as the jury is picked. The jury selection for their cases started Monday, and opening arguments could begin as early as Friday.
“We cannot confirm but it’s usually around a week from when potential jurors first meet to a jury being selected and opening arguments,” said Carla from the office of Elizabeth Macedonio, the lead attorney for Hise.
No one was hurt by any of the men on trial. Valle’s case last year, however, put the spotlight on the legal issue surrounding the fine line between online fantasy role-play and violent criminal conspiracy.
Juror selection is expected to continue on Wednesday.