New York City
Judge frees 'cannibal cop' after voiding his conviction 0
NEW YORK - A federal judge on Tuesday ordered New York's "cannibal cop" released from jail after overturning the former city police officer's conviction for plotting to kidnap, kill and cook women.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan on Monday threw out the conviction of Gilberto Valle, 30, after federal public defenders argued that the U.S. Constitution grants people the right to fantasize, free from government interference.
Entering a packed courtroom, a beaming Valle, wearing jail-issued blue pants and top, hugged his lawyers and nodded to family members.
Gardephe ordered Valle released on $100,000 bond. He also said Valle would be subject to home detention with GPS monitoring, mental health treatment and could have no access to the Internet.
Prosecutors during Valle's trial said he searched the Internet for homemade recipes for chloroform to subdue victims as well as recipes for cooking human flesh.
Defense lawyers had argued that Valle never acted after nearly a year of fantasizing about kidnapping, murdering and eating roughly two dozen women - in many cases in online discussions with other fetishists. The women in his fantasies included his estranged wife, Kathleen Mangan-Valle.
At Tuesday's hearing, prosecutor Hadassa Waxman told the judge the government respected his decision but would appeal.
Gardephe acquitted Valle, dubbed the "cannibal cop" by local tabloid media, on the charge of conspiracy to kidnap. He was awaiting sentencing following a March 2013 jury verdict.
Gardephe upheld Valle's conviction on a lesser charge of improperly accessing a law enforcement database, which prosecutors said he used to help find his intended victims. That charge carries a sentence up to one year in prison. His lawyer, Julia Gatto, told Gardephe that Valle, who has spent more than 18 months in jail, "has already served that time and then some."
Prosecutors said Valle crossed the line from fantasy to reality by taking specific action in conspiring to kidnap women. Valle's attorney had argued that he merely engaged in online fantasy role playing.
"The evidentiary record is such that it is more likely than not the case that all of Valle's Internet communications about kidnapping are fantasy role-play," Judge Gardephe wrote in his 118-page opinion.
The trial brought to light a macabre cyberspace community where people discuss and exchange images and video of extraordinary brutality, much of it staged.
Outside the courthouse, Valle said: "I want to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone who's been hurt, shocked and offended by my infantile actions."
In March, a federal jury convicted two other men, Christopher Asch and Michael Van Hise, of conspiring to kidnap women to satisfy sexual fetishes for rape and murder they initially nursed online. A third co-conspirator, Richard Meltz, pleaded guilty to two kidnapping conspiracy counts. It was unclear if Gardephe's decision would affect those cases, which stemmed from the case against Valle.
Valle's mother, Elizabeth Valle, said after the hearing that she planned to spend a lot of time with her son and "cook him his favorite meal."