World & Nation

New York’s ‘cannibal cop’ freed after judge overturns conviction

A former New York police officer who was found guilty last year of what prosecutors said was a plot to kidnap and eat young women was freed Tuesday after a federal judge overturned the conviction in the so-called cannibal cop case, saying that the scheme was nothing more than a sexual fantasy on the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe overturned the conviction of former Officer Gilberto Valle, 40, and set bail at $100,000. The judge delivered a verdict of acquittal on the most serious count, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which could have brought him a sentence of life in prison.

“This is a conspiracy that existed solely in cyberspace,” Gardephe ruled.

Valle, who was in prison for nearly 21 months, apologized outside court “to anyone who was hurt, shocked or offended by my infantile actions.”


The former officer was also convicted of illegally gaining access to a law enforcement database, a charge that carries a penalty of one year in prison. The judge did not overturn that verdict.

The case, which New York tabloids dubbed the “cannibal cop,” seemed to bridge the chasm between digital fantasy, where violence and fetishism ran wild, and the real world, where nothing took place except for computer keys tapping and clicks on computer home pages.

“The highly unusual facts of this reflect the Internet age in which we live,” Gardephe wrote in his 118-page ruling.

Valle and his three purported co-conspirators met on Dark Fetish Network, a fantasy sexual fetish website, where they chatted about committing acts of sexual violence against women, including pictures Valle posted on the website. The pictures, taken from Facebook, were of his wife, her colleagues from work and his college friends, according to court papers.


Valle was convicted in March 2013 after the jury determined that he was more than fantasizing when he and others discussed killing and cooking his wife and others.

But Gardephe wrote that “once the lies and the fantastical elements are stripped away, what is left are deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror and degradation.”

“Although the alleged conspiracy lasted nearly a year,” the judge wrote, “all communications between Valle and his co-conspirators in New Jersey, India or Pakistan, and England took place over the Internet.”

“None of the conspirators ever met or took steps to meet, nor did they ever speak by telephone.”

Susman reported from New York and Muskal from Los Angeles.

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