NEW YORK (AP) — The former police chief at a Massachusetts veterans hospital was sentenced Tuesday to the maximum 10 years in prison in a kidnap-murder case that resulted from the prosecution of a cannibalism case against a New York City police officer.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe said 66-year-old Richard Meltz of Linden, New Jersey, was a danger to the community and a substantial sentence was necessary.
Meltz, a diabetic with a history of panic attacks and depression, repeatedly dropped his head through his hands as the judge described how the onetime New Jersey police officer will be treated as a sex offender after his release, with a ban on contacting children under age 17 and accessing Internet sites featuring sadomasochism, bondage or discipline. His wife and daughter cried.
The judge noted that federal sentencing guidelines would have called for Meltz to spend decades in prison if he had not reached a plea bargain to plead guilty to two conspiracy counts that each carried a potential five-year prison sentence. Meltz declined to speak.
Meltz, who was police chief at the Bedford Veterans Affairs Medical Center, admitted in one count that he conspired to kidnap, rape and murder the wife of a man he met over the Internet between 2011 and 2013. In the second count, he admitted conspiring to do the same to a female FBI agent working undercover.
The sentencing came two months after Gardephe reversed a jury’s conviction of a former New York City police officer in a conspiracy to kidnap, kill and eat young women. The judge said in July it was more likely than not that Gilberto Valle’s Internet communications about kidnapping were fantasy role-play. Valle was freed on bail while the government appeals Gardephe’s findings.
Tuesday’s sentencing, though, demonstrated that Gardephe’s view of the Valle case did not extend to the guilty plea by Meltz and the convictions at trial of two of his accomplices, Christopher Asch and Michael Van Hise.
At trial, prosecutors said Asch, a former librarian at Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School, and Van Hise, a Trenton, New Jersey, auto mechanic, took concrete steps to go beyond Internet fantasy chats. They said Asch covertly watched the undercover agent and collected torture tools including a 20-million-volt stun gun, a whip, clamps, skewers and gynecological implements.
As he sentenced Meltz, Gardephe said Meltz gave Asch “extensive advice all along the way” after the FBI learned through its investigation of Valle that Van Hise was trying to enlist others he met in fantasy chat rooms to kidnap, rape, torture and kill his wife, sister-in-law, his sister-in-law’s four children and his 9-year-old stepdaughter.
“These men met. They spoke frequently on the telephone,” the judge said.
“Today’s sentence ensures that Richard Meltz will pay with his liberty for his role in a macabre conspiracy to kidnap, brutalize and kill two victims that, fortunately, did not come to full fruition,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.