New York police officer guilty of plot to kidnap, kill and eat women
A New York City police officer has been convicted of charges he plotted to kidnap and cook women to dine on their "girl meat" – a macabre case that subjected jurors to often gory evidence and asked them to separate fantasy from reality.
The Manhattan jury reached the verdict in the federal court at the kidnapping conspiracy trial of Officer Gilberto Valle, a 28-year-old father with an admitted fetish for talking on the internet about cannibalism.
Valle's lawyers, at what the tabloids dubbed the 'Cannibal Cop' trial, chose not to hide what they called his "weird proclivities". But they insisted that he was just fantasising and noted that none of the women were ever harmed.
Valle bowed his head and looked teary eyed when the verdict was announced. He hugged his lawyer, Julia Gatto, who said later that they had been crying.
"The jury was unable to get past the thoughts," Ms Gatto said. "Obviously, the case involved thoughts that were unusual and bizarre and frankly very ugly."
She called it a "dangerous prosecution when we start opening our minds and prosecuting what's in our brains and not what's in the real world".
US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement: "A unanimous jury found that Gilberto Valle's detailed and specific plans to abduct women for the purpose of committing grotesque crimes were very real, and that he was guilty.
"The internet is a forum for the free exchange of ideas, but it does not confer immunity for plotting crimes and taking steps to carry out those crimes."
Valle's mother, Elizabeth, shook her head as the verdict was rendered.
"I'm in shock and want to be left alone," she said.
Valle faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on June 19. With the conviction, he loses his job as a police officer.
The defence team said it would ask the judge to set aside the verdict. Defence attorney Robert Baum said the verdict set a "dangerous precedent".
"People can be prosecuted for their thoughts and convicted," he said.
Prosecutors countered that an analysis of Valle's computer found he was taking concrete steps to abduct his wife and at least five other women he knew.
They said he looked up potential targets on a restricted law enforcement database, searched the internet for how to knock someone out with chloroform, and showed up on the block of one woman after agreeing to kidnap her for $5,000 (€4,000) for a New Jersey man, now awaiting trial.
Valle "left the world of fantasy and entered the world of reality", prosecutor Hadassa Waxman said during closing arguments. She said the officer's arrest near Halloween last year interrupted a ghoulish plan to "kidnap, torture, rape and commit other horrific acts on young women".
The trial opened a window on a strange online underworld where people share sick and twisted fantasies of torture, murder, dismemberment and cannibalism.