Conviction in 'cannibal cop' case overturned

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Judge Overturns Conviction In 'Cannibal Cop' Case
By TOM HAYS

NEW YORK (AP) -- A former New York Police Department officer was set to leave jail on Tuesday after a judge overturned his conviction in a bizarre case accusing him of plotting to kidnap, kill and eat young women.

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. His lawyers had argued that the alleged plots were really fantasy online role play that never put anyone in harm's way.

Valle - dubbed by the tabloids as the "Cannibal Cop" - smiled at his family and hugged his lawyers in court on Tuesday. The judge set bail at $100,000 and ordered home detention 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.

Conviction in 'cannibal cop' case overturned
Defense lawyers Robert Baum, second from left, and Julia Gatto, center, arrive for a news briefing on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 in New York. A federal jury convicted their client, New York City police officer Gilberto Valle, of charges he plotted to kidnap and cook women to dine on their “girl meat.” Valle, 28, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on June 19. With the conviction, he loses his job as a police officer. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Elizabeth Valle is surrounded by news reporters as she leaves court on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 in New York. A federal jury convicted her son, New York City police officer Gilberto Valle, of charges he plotted to kidnap and cook women to dine on their “girl meat.” Valle, 28, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on June 19. With the conviction, he loses his job as a police officer. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Defense lawyers, Julia Gatto, second from left, and, Robert Baum, center, hold a news briefing on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 in New York. A federal jury convicted their client, New York City police officer Gilberto Valle, of charges he plotted to kidnap and cook women to dine on their “girl meat.” Valle, 28, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on June 19. With the conviction, he loses his job as a police officer. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Elizabeth Valle is surrounded by news reporters as she leaves court on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 in New York. A federal jury convicted her son, New York City police officer Gilberto Valle, of charges he plotted to kidnap and cook women to dine on their “girl meat.” Valle, 28, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on June 19. With the conviction, he loses his job as a police officer. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
FILE - This undated court evidence file photo shows New York City police Officer Gilberto Valle with his daughter. A jury on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, found Valle guilty of conspiring to kidnap, kill and cannibalize as many as six women that he knew, including his wife. (AP Photo/Provided by Attorney Julia L. Gatto, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2012, file courtroom drawing, Federal Defender Julie Gatto requests bail for her client, New York City Police Officer Gilberto Valle, right, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York. Valle, a police officer charged with plotting to kidnap, torture, cook and eat at least 100 women, had discussed having "girl meat" for Thanksgiving, prosecutors revealed during a bail hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. The judge on Tuesday denied bail, setting the trial for Jan. 22. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams, File)
A police officer stands guard outside the 26th precinct where police officer Gilberto Valle worked out of, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 in New York. Valle was charged Thursday in a ghoulish plot to kidnap and torture women and then cook and eat their body parts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A man claiming to be the brother of New York City Police Officer Gilberto Valle is questioned by the media Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. The officer was charged Thursday in a ghoulish plot to kidnap and torture women and then cook and eat their body parts. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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Valle 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. He was expected to be released from jail later Tuesday and stay on home detention until he's sentenced.

Valle, 40, "is guilty of nothing more than very unconventional thoughts," one of his attorneys, Julia Gatto, said outside court. "We don't put people in jail for their thoughts. We are not the thought police."

A jury had concluded he wasn't just fantasizing when he conversed online with others he had never met about killing and cooking his wife and others in a cannibalism plot.

In his 118-page opinion, Gardephe said: "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."

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.

Valle was fired after his conviction.
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