Trials & Litigation

Guilty verdict against 'Cannibal Cop' overturned by federal judge

A federal judge has overturned the 2013 jury verdict against New York City’s so-called “Cannibal Cop.”

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe issued a ruling on Monday acquitting former New York City police officer Gilberto Valle of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, reports the New York Times. Gardephe found that Valle’s plot, which allegedly consisted of plans to capture, torture, kill and eat specific women–including his wife–was a sick, perverted fantasy that did not rise to the level of a criminal act.

“The evidentiary record is such that it is more likely than not the case that all of Valle’s Internet communications about kidnapping are fantasy role-play,” Gardephe said in an opinion issued late Monday night. Valle could have faced a maximum life sentence as a result of being convicted on the charge of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

Gardephe was convinced by Valle’s attorneys that the former police officer had done nothing beyond the fantasizing stage. While Gardephe expressed disapproval over Valle’s “deviant and depraved sexual interests,” the judge noted that no women were actually kidnapped or harmed. Federal prosecutors had argued that Valle had taken concrete steps to implement his plans, including using a law enforcement database to track women; conducting surveillance of them; and learning how to capture and cook humans.

“He left the world of fantasy; he entered the world of reality,” said prosecutor Hadassa Waxman, in her closing argument, according to the Times.

It wasn’t a complete victory for Valle, though. Gardephe allowed a conviction for illegally gaining access to a law enforcement database to stand. Unlike the conspiracy count, the illegal-access charge carries a maximum of one year in prison.

The Times reports that after a hearing on Tuesday, Gardephe ordered Valle released on home detention with a $100,000 bond, over the prosecution’s objections. Prosecutors said they would appeal.

NBC News, the Associated Press and Time magazine also have stories.

Related articles: “Ex-cop is convicted of kidnapping conspiracy in alleged Internet cannibalism plot” “Trial in alleged cop cannibalism plot raises issue: When does fantasy become actual crime?”

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