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'Cannibal Cop' stays out of jail as court finds fantasising about eating people is "not a crime"

Ex-NYPD officer Gilberto Valle had hundreds of online chats about murdering, cooking and eating dozens of women – including his own wife.

Police Officer Cannibalism Former New York police officer Gilberto Valle, leaves court with his mother, after his kidnapping conspiracy conviction is overturned. Source: Associated Press

A FORMER NYPD officer committed no crime when he fantasised online about committing horrific acts of sexual violence against his wife and others, a court in Manhattan ruled today.

His alleged crimes went as far as bizarre conversations about kidnapping and eating women, conducted largely through the DarkFetishNet website.

In 2013, Gilberto Valle, 31, was found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap, and could have spent the rest of his life in prison, but that conviction was later overturned on appeal.

And today, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld that decision in a 2-to-1 ruling which rejected the arguments of prosecutors on behalf of the state.

The case had earned Valle the tabloid nickname “Cannibal Cop.”

In his decision for the majority, Judge Barrington D Parker wrote:

We are loathe to give the government the power to punish us for our thoughts and not our actions.
That includes the power to criminalise an individual’s expression of sexual fantasies, no matter how perverse or disturbing.
Fantasizing about committing a crime, even a crime of violence against a real person whom you know, is not a crime.

The decision acknowledged that fantasies of violence against women “contribute to a culture of exploitation, a massive social harm that demeans women,” but the court added that “not every harm is meant to be addressed with the federal criminal law.”

vallemajority1 Source: US Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit

The 2nd Circuit also reversed Valle’s conviction on a misdemeanour charge of using a restricted law enforcement database to secretly look up personal information about women he knew.

The ruling upheld U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe’s decision to reverse the jury verdict after finding no genuine agreement to kidnap.

The appeals court noted Valle provided online “a veritable avalanche of false, fictitious, and fantastical information concerning himself and the steps he had allegedly taken to facilitate a kidnapping.”

He was arrested after his own wife examined his internet browser and search engine history, and discovered online chats that Valle was having, about kidnapping, torturing, sexually assaulting, murdering, cooking and eating dozens of women – including her.

She later testified against him in court.

valledissent An excerpt from Judge Chester Straub's dissenting opinion today. Source: US Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit

Disagreeing with today’s ruling, Judge Chester Straub said his colleagues had enshrined “all the conduct in this case in an academic protective halo.”

He said he would reinstate the kidnapping conspiracy conviction and leave the misdemeanour conviction intact.

This is not a case about governmental intrusion on one’s personal inclinations and fantasies, nor is it a case about governmental punishment of one’s thoughts.
It is, instead, a jury’s determination of guilt for a conspiracy based on definitive conduct.

He said the judges had presented “eloquent prose on the importance of protecting thoughts from criminal punishment,” but said the words were irrelevant “because the jury did not convict Valle for fantasizing.”

Police Officer Cannibalism Former New York police officer Gilberto Valle, leaves court with his mother, after his kidnapping conspiracy conviction is overturned. Source: Associated Press

At sentencing last year, Valle, who served 20 months in jail while awaiting trial, apologised to women he wrote about in fetish chat rooms.

I just hope they know they were never in danger. I would never do the things I talked about on the Internet — never.

Prosecutors declined comment.

In a statement, Valle’s lawyers said the decision confirms that fantasies, even repugnant ones, are not crimes.

This ruling is a very important victory not just for Mr. Valle, who has now been cleared of all criminal charges, but for an open society that treasures freedom of thought and expression.

Warning: Today’s court rulings contain excerpts of evidence from Valle’s initial trial, which some readers may find extremely disturbing.

However, you can read Judge Barrington D Parker’s majority opinion here, and Judge Chester Straub’s dissenting opinion here.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

Read: ‘Cannibal cop’ accused of plotting to torture victims weeps at end of trial>

Read: NYPD officer arrested over plot to kidnap and eat women>

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Dan MacGuill

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