Internet Law

Trial in alleged cop cannibalism plot raises issue: When does fantasy become actual crime?

According to a defense lawyer, New York City police officer Gilberto Valle had no intention of carrying out deviant fantasies expressed in Internet chat rooms.

Defense lawyer Julia Gatto said in opening statements that Valle’s alleged plans to kidnap, rape, kill and cannibalize his wife and other women were “pure fiction,” the New York Times reports. “It’s pretend. It’s scary make-believe,” she said as Valle’s trial began in Manhattan federal court.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, say the plot was real. Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson said Valle engaged in detailed online discussions about torturing and killing real women. The case began with testimony from Valle’s wife, Kathleen Mangan-Valle, who alerted the FBI after finding her husband’s electronic chat history.

“I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit, and they would have fun watching the blood gush out of me,” she said, sobbing throughout her testimony. Valle also cried during the testimony.

The Times describes the issue this way: “When does a fantasized crime become an actual crime?”

Valle is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, the story says. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

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