Cannibal-plot case tossed; ex-cop gets out of jail

NEW YORK (AP) — A former New York Police Department
officer left jail on Tuesday after a judge stunned prosecutors and
overturned his conviction in a sensational case accusing him of plotting
on the Internet to kidnap, kill and eat young women, including his
wife.
Judge Paul Gardephe ruled late Monday that there was
insufficient evidence to support a jury’s guilty verdict in the
kidnapping conspiracy conviction of Gilberto Valle. He agreed with
defense arguments that the defendant’s bizarre exchanges in fetish chat
rooms about cannibalizing women never put anyone in danger.
Valle’s
"depraved, misogynistic sexual fantasies about his wife, former college
classmates and acquaintances undoubtedly reflected a mind diseased,"
the judge wrote. But, he added, prosecutors failed to prove he had
entered into genuine agreements to kidnap the women and taken concrete
steps to carry them out.
At a hearing Tuesday before his release,
Valle – dubbed the "Cannibal Cop" by the tabloids – smiled at his family
and hugged his lawyers in court. Once outside, he told reporters he was
eager to go home after spending more than 20 months behind bars.
"I
want to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone I hurt, shocked
and offended with my infantile behavior," he said. He also thanked his
family and fellow inmates at a federal lockup for helping him endure an
"impossible situation."
Valle, 40, "is guilty of nothing more than
very unconventional thoughts," said one of his attorneys, Julia Gatto.
"We don’t put people in jail for their thoughts. We are not the thought
police."
The judge set bail at $100,000 and ordered home detention
in Queens for the defendant after prosecutors told him they intended to
appeal his ruling.
"The government believes the jury got it right," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman.

Valle
was arrested in 2012 after his wife discovered disturbing material on
his computer and reported it to the FBI. He was convicted in March 2013
on the conspiracy charge – which carries a possible life term – and a
misdemeanor count of illegally accessing a law enforcement database.
At
trial, prosecutors had argued that Valle took steps to carry out his
plot, including looking up potential targets on a restricted law
enforcement database; searching the Internet for how to knock someone
out with chloroform and where to get torture devices and other tools.
In
one of the numerous online conversations shown to the jury during the
trial, Valle told a man he met in a fetish chat room, "I want her to
experience being cooked alive. She’ll be trussed up like a turkey. …
She’ll be terrified, screaming and crying."
In another exchange,
Valle suggested a woman he knew would be easy prey because she lived
alone. The men discussed cooking her, basted in olive oil, over an open
fire and using her severed head as a centerpiece for a sit-down meal.
The NYPD fired Valle after his conviction.
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Associated Press writer Ula Ilnytzky contributed to this report.