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Man linked to N.Y. 'cannibal cop' case seen pleading guilty

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Massachusetts hospital police official charged with conspiring to kidnap, torture and kill women as part of the so-called "cannibal cop" case is expected to plead guilty in New York this week, a court filing on Tuesday showed.

Richard Meltz, 65, of Nashua, New Hampshire, is set to enter a plea on Thursday, just weeks before he and two other accused co-conspirators are scheduled to go on trial.

The case grew out of an investigation into New York police officer Gilberto Valle, who was convicted last year of a plot to kidnap, cook and eat women, and earned the tabloid moniker "Cannibal Cop".

"After considering his options, Mr. Meltz has decided to accept responsibility for his role in this case and with his plea to conspiracy charges hopes to put this massive error in judgment behind him and return to his wife and family," his lawyer Peter Brill said.

Meltz had been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

The defendant is a deputy chief of police for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts, though his employment status is unclear.

A spokeswoman for the hospital did not respond to a request for comment.

The two other defendants in the case are Robert Christopher Asch, 61, a former New York City high school librarian, and Michael Van Hise, 23, a mechanic from New Jersey.

Elizabeth Macedonio, a lawyer for Van Hise, said her client will go to trial, which is currently scheduled for January 27 but may be delayed until February. His lawyers have said he cooperated with investigators following Valle's arrest.

Asch's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In his defense at trial, Van Hise will argue that he was assisting law enforcement in communicating with Asch and Meltz online and never intended to commit any crimes, according to court filings.

Asch plans to argue that he was merely engaged in fantasy role-playing.

Valle offered a similar defense at his trial, but a jury agreed with prosecutors that he had crossed the line from fantasy to reality by taking specific steps toward fulfilling his desires.

The trial, which included grisly evidence from "human meat recipes" to images of women being roasted on a spit, shed light on a macabre online community where millions of people trade photos and videos of extreme brutality, much of it staged.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Gunna Dickson and Ken Wills)

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