NYPD ‘Cannibal Cop’ Guilty of Kidnapping Conspiracy
NYPD cop Gilberto Valle, accused of conspiring to kidnap, torture and eat female victims, was found guilty by a federal jury in New York on Mar. 12. The jury deliberated for almost four days.
Valle was also found guilty of accessing a law enforcement database to track potential victims. He faces life in prison for kidnapping conspiracy and up to five years for the database crime and will reportedly be sentenced on June 19.
From January to October 2012, Valle frequented sex fantasy sites on the Internet devoted to violent fetishes such as cannibalism and torture, according to the FBI agent who investigated his case and testified against him. Valle then allegedly conspired with three other men to commit such acts, including cooking and eating women.
His wife, worried for her own safety after discovering evidence of his activities online, alerted the FBI. She was in tears as she testified against him during the trial.
Prosecutors say he took concrete steps to actually commit the crimes he discussed with others who shared his fetishes. Those steps included the accessing of the restricted law enforcement databases to identify women, traveling to meet one potential victim, and emailing and messaging his co-conspirators about “kidnapping, cooking and eating body parts” of the victims, according to the criminal complaint, which details his plans involving two women.
In closing arguments on Mar. 7, the prosecutor said Valle meant to hurt these women, “pointing to his extensive online research on kidnapping, making chloroform and cooking women,” according to Reuters.
Valle’s defense lawyer argued that he was only engaging in fantasy and never intended to kill or eat anyone. “We don’t convict human beings because of ugly thoughts,” she said, “even if they are police officers.”
Valle did not testify in his trial; the only witnesses the defense reportedly put on included a woman who fantasized about being killed and eaten, a paralegal, and the founder of the DarkFetishNet.com website Valle and his co-conspirators used.
Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who now practices criminal defense in Chicago, says the government had to prove two things to convict Valle of conspiracy: He made an agreement to commit a crime, and then he committed “overt acts” in furtherance of that crime.
“You can talk about any kind of crime, about committing a crime,” Turner says. “But you have a major problem when you take a step that can be construed in furtherance of that crime. That’s when the crime of conspiracy is committed.”
Turner says once people speak openly of committing a crime – as Valle and his friends on the Internet did, and as many people do, in jest or maybe even in confidence with friends – they “take a big risk . . . because anything they do can be construed as being in furtherance.”
“What they should have done was write a disclaimer or a caveat to their communications saying, ‘We talk about these things but we don’t mean to really do anything; we just get a charge out of it,’” Turner says. “They would have been fine.”
Defense Not Strong Enough
“My gut feeling was that he would be convicted,” Turner says. “Not because he committed a crime – he really didn’t do anything, he just talked about things – but because of the ghastly nature of the evidence and how shocked the jury was.”
“It takes a very disciplined and sophisticated jury to see through that and not to just react on their emotions and say, ‘This person is a bad person. He may not have violated the law, but he’s scary and we don’t like what he did, so we’re going to convict him anyhow.’”
“The defense needed a very strong instruction to the jury saying that they should not base their decision on the ghastly nature of the photos and conversations,” says Turner, adding he didn’t know if such an instruction was given.
He said he was shocked that the defense didn’t call a psychiatrist to testify that most people with such fetishes never act on them, and that the defendant didn’t testify and explain for the jury his motives.
As for whether Valle will likely get life behind bars at his sentencing in June, Turner says it depends: “If the judge believes he was going to do this, it seems the judge must give him life, because otherwise, if he comes out, you face the danger that the guy is going to really do it.”
“You give him life or you don’t believe the evidence,” he says.