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Cop Who Fantasized About Cannibalism Is off the Hook

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. | Last updated on

More than two years after a New York jury found 'Cannibal Cop' Gilberto Valle guilty on counts of conspiring to kidnap and eat women and for illegally using his access to a police database to scope out potential victims, Valle has been cleared of all charges.

The particular case is perhaps one of the more gruesome "thought police" cases to reach national recognition.

Fantasies of Cannibalism

In the months before his arrest, Gilberto Valle sat at his New York Police work computer and dove headfirst into a dark corner of the Internet where he consorted with other similarly minded fetishists who fantasized about kidnapping, torturing, raping, killing, and eating women.

"When you're behind a computer screen late at night, no one knows who you are, where you are," he said later. And then? He would go back to being "the regular me," as he described it. Valle was not convicted of actually abducting and eating women, but he was convicted of conspiring to do so. He was also convicted of illegally using the police database to find potential victims.

Circuit Overturns All Counts

The Second Circuit Court, however, threw all of that out. It concluded that this case was one that showcased the battle between fantasy and criminal intent. "Fantasizing," the majority said, "about committing a crime, even a crime of violence against a real person who you know, is not a crime." The circuit eventually concluded that the graphic discussions that Valle participated in did not amount to approach the point of actually forming an actual intent with fellow fetishers, and thus, no conspiracy to commit a crime was formed. The record contains some pretty extreme stuff too -- stuff that would make Marquis de Sade seem run-of-the-mill by comparison.

The circuit also showed leniency toward Valle and applied the doctrine of lenity in his case, arguing that federal laws, where ambiguous, does not generally prohibit individuals from accessing computer databases they are authorized to use, even if the access if for an improper, non-work related purpose.

Although this case has been billed as a thought-police type controversy, it is only tangentially so. This is really a writing-thoughts-down-and-appearing-to-scope-victims case. It is still legal in this country to think unpleasant fantasies that would be illegal if they really took place.

But the most perturbing aspect about it all is that Valle's comments later reveal a seemingly normal individual -- suggesting that such fantasies may be much more typical of the average person than most people would accept.

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