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BY SAM SPOKONY | Before his arrest last April, a former Stuyvesant High School librarian accused of planning to rape and kill women and children owned a disturbing video that depicts two men brutally torturing two women, officials said.
Now federal prosecutors hope to use descriptions of that video as evidence against him at trial.
The so-called “Pain 35” video was recovered by investigators when Robert Christopher Asch, 62, a former Stuyvesant High School librarian, was arrested inside his Village apartment in the Saint Germain, at Greenwich Ave. and W. 10th St.
The video, which had been stashed in Asch’s home, shows the two nearly naked women being tortured with heinous items, including nipple clamps, a leg spreader, a riding crop, rope, handcuffs and needles, according to federal prosecutors. Officials have also said that experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation believe that the women in the video are not actors, and that they are actually being painfully tortured.
Asch is accused of conspiring with Richard Meltz, 65, to kidnap, rape and murder multiple people — including the wife, sister-in-law, children and stepdaughter of an alleged co-conspirator, Michael Van Hise.
Meltz has already pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in a conspiracy to commit kidnapping — the same charges Asch faces — but Asch’s trial began Jan. 27.
In a Jan. 8 letter to the federal judge handling the case, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said prosecutors do not actually aim to play the “Pain 35” video in front of the jury, but are instead seeking the judge’s permission to provide a description of the video.
In doing so, the prosecutors hope to show that Asch used the video as a “how-to guide” for restraining and inflicting pain on his victims, and to show that he was not simply fantasizing about the plans.
“The ‘Pain 35’ video has substantial value in proving that Asch was intent on kidnapping the victims…and was not simply roleplaying,” Bharara’s letter states, although he also wrote that the video’s contents will “undoubtedly be shocking and disturbing to the members of the jury.”
Asch’s lawyer, Brian Waller, responded with his own letter to the federal judge, hoping to stop prosecutors from describing the video because he claimed its “shocking and disturbing” nature would unfairly influence the jury.
“Such evidence can deeply prejudice a jury against a defendant, for reasons having nothing to do with that defendant’s guilt or innocence,” Waller wrote.
It’s also now known that Asch possessed a video and images of child pornography when he was arrested, and that he is a member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, a.k.a. NAMBLA. But prosecutors have said they don’t plan to address those facts during the trial — that is, unless Asch testifies and they are brought up as part of his testimony.
Prosecutors have also said that they don’t plan to mention that Asch had been arrested in 2009 and charged with inappropriately touching male students during his time at Stuyvesant High School. Those charges were later dropped.
Asch was arrested last April after federal agents found out about his alleged plans while they were investigating the infamous “cannibal cop,” Gilberto Vale.