A federal judge has overturned the 2013 conviction of a former New York City police officer accused of a bizarre plot to kidnap, cook and eat his female victims.
Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe issued the 118-page opinion late Monday night. In the ruling the judge acquitted Gilberto Valle of the most serious charge he faced - kidnapping conspiracy.
“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,” the judge wrote, according to The New York Times.
Valle, who was convicted last March, has been in prison awaiting sentencing. Had the conspiracy conviction been upheld, he would have faced a life sentence.
The judge did not overturn a misdemeanor charge of illegally using a police database to search for potential victims. That charge carried a maximum sentence of one year in prison, which Valle has already served.
Prosecutors in the case argued that the 28-year-old officer had crossed the line from fantasy to actually planning a crime. They cited a document found on his wife Kathleen’s computer titled “Abducting and Cooking Kimberly — A Blueprint.” The document listed materials one would need to carry out the crime including a gag, rope and chloroform.
No woman was ever kidnapped or harmed by Valle.
“He left the world of fantasy; he entered the world of reality,” one prosecutor, Hadassa Waxman, told the jury during her closing arguments in the trial.
The jury was also shown transcripts of chat-room conversations in which Valle told others what he planned to do to his victims.
"I want her to experience being cooked alive. She'll be trussed up like a turkey. ... She'll be terrified, screaming and crying,” the transcript of one conversation read, according to the New York Daily News.
But Valle’s defense attorney, Julia Gatto, argued that despite the gruesome language, the talk never amounted to a concrete plot to carry out the crimes.
“Obviously, the case involved thoughts that were unusual and bizarre and, frankly, very ugly, and we think that the jury just couldn’t get past that and they never got to the law,” Gatto told the New York Post after the 2013 conviction.
Gardephe agreed with Gatto.
“Despite the highly disturbing nature of Valle’s deviant and depraved sexual interests, his chats and emails about these interests are not sufficient — standing alone — to make out the elements of conspiracy to commit kidnapping,” he wrote.
Valle has been fired by the New York City Police Department.
Gardephe scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, presumably to discuss Valle’s release.