A New York City police officer was convicted in March 2013 for an alleged plot to kidnap, torture, cook and eat women. According to authorities he used the police database to collect information on his potential victims and planned his attack with co-conspirators online. Although no one was actually harmed, the FBI turned the case over to the United States Attorney to prosecute based on a “great deal of intent,” according to FBI sources. However, in July 2014 a federal judge acquitted Valle of the conspiracy and kidnapping charges, the most serious offenses, finding that there was insufficient evidence to uphold the convictions. Valle had served more than the maximum one-year sentence for the other charge of illegally accessing a law enforcement database. The former NYPD officer faced a potential life sentence and has now been released from custody.
Valle was charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and illegally accessing the federal National Crime Information Center in the Southern District of New York. If convicted of the conspiracy to commit kidnapping allegation, Valle faced a possible life sentence. The illegal use of government database charge carried a maximum 1-year sentence.
When Kathleen Mangan, 28, found a creepy message from her estranged husband posted online, she called the cops.
Gilberto Valle, 25, a New York City police officer who worked a beat in Harlem for six years, was arrested himself after the FBI investigated the internet messages and found explicit plots to abduct, torture, cook and eat women. Valle was suspended from the NYPD immediately upon his arrest.
Internet transcripts read aloud in court were like something out of a horror movie. Valle allegedly wrote about wanting to consume “girl meat” for Thanksgiving dinner. According to authorities, Valle also detailed a particular method of cooking a victim slowly while “trying to keep her alive as long as possible,” and described how “tasty” a woman would look with legs bent in an oven.
According to the indictment, one particularly chilling conversation went as follows:
Valle: It is going to be so hard to restrain myself when I knock her out, but I am aspiring to be a professional kidnapper and that’s business. But I will really get off knocking her out, tying up her hands and bare feet and gagging her. Then she will be stuffed into a large piece of luggage and wheeled out to my van.
Co-Conspirator: Just make sure she doesn’t die before I get her.
Valle: No need to worry. She will be alive. It’s a short drive to you. I think I would rather not get involved in the rape. You paid for her. She is all yours and I don’t want to be tempted the next time I abduct a girl.
Veteran defense attorney Julia Gatto has argued vigorously that Valle is only guilty of having deviant fantasies, and that no one was hurt. “At worst, this is someone who has sexual fantasies about people . . . and talks about it on the internet,” she said at Valle’s bail hearing.
Valle’s lawyer has protested the breadth of the investigation, pointing out that no overt acts were carried out against any woman and that Valle is being kept in “extraordinarily harsh” solitary confinement while the FBI’s investigation continues.
He was convicted in March 2013 when a jury had concluded he wasn’t just fantasizing and made steps in furtherance of the crime. According to prosecutors Valle looked up potential targets on a restricted law enforcement database and searched the Internet for how to knock someone out with chloroform and where to get torture devices and other tools.
However, on July 1, 2014 a Federal Judge Paul Gardephe ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction and acquitted the former NYPD officer of kidnapping conspiracy charges, the most serious charges he faced. Valle faced potential life in prison at his sentencing.
Gardephe upheld Valle’s conviction on a charge of illegally gaining access to the law enforcement database, which carried a maximum sentence of one year. Valle was released from prison after serving 18-month in custody since his 2012 arrest.
Gilberto Valle – The 25-year-old New York City police officer and father of one was accused of conspiracy to kidnap women to torture, cook and eat them. The FBI found incriminating files on his computer, including one that was horrifyingly entitled “Abducting and Cooking Victim I: A Blueprint.”
Kathleen Cooke Mangan – Valle’s estranged wife, 28, a schoolteacher who tipped off the authorities to Valle’s online activities after she found internet messages that horrified her.
Elizabeth Valle – Valle’s mother, 57, who was outspoken in the media that her son “hasn’t eaten a human being.” Leading up to the trial she reportedly said, “If I had money to hire a good defense team, my son would be out by now.”
Julia Gatto – The federal public defender who is representing Valle. Gatto has a distinguished criminal defense pedigree, having cut her teeth at two prestigious New York firms before moving to the Federal Defenders of New York. She also represented the notorious Times Square Bomber, Faisal Shahzad. She is known as an aggressive advocate for her clients.
This is the kind of case that the tabloids just jump all over – and to be honest, we think it’s pretty interesting, too. But between Gilberto Valle, the Canadian Cannibal and the flesh-eating “zombies” high on bath salts it almost makes you think we’re facing a renewed interest in cannibals.
The truth is, though, that Valle didn’t eat anyone. He didn’t kidnap anyone. No one was actually tortured, killed or shoved in an oven – he just put his deviant fantasies online like many, many other people do. So what’s the harm?
The harm in this case stems less from Valle’s intentions and more from his affirmative actions. What do we mean by that? Well, the steps he took to allegedly carry out the plan to kidnap and eat women amounted to a truly stunning abuse of authority and invasion of privacy.
Valle, a police officer in a position of great authority, with access to a ton of sensitive information about citizens from every walk of life, abused his authority and access in the course of allegedly carrying out this scheme. He used the records available to him to make a database of potential victims (a real-life “binder full of women,” if you will – sorry, we know the election’s over!). This database was not limited to merely names but also physical descriptions, photographs, addresses and identifying information.
The alleged plot is disgusting and perfect for tabloid fodder, but the actual crime is offensive all on its own. That a police officer, sworn to “serve and protect,” should use government databases to compile a list of potential victims is disgusting all on its own.
We think the district court is going to come down pretty hard on Valle. His defense lawyers will argue to the high heavens that this was a victimless crime, that the plot was pure fantasy, but we think they will be missing the point.
The victims in this case are everyone whose personal information Valle could access – every name with enough identifying facts out there, ripe for creepers like Valle to add to his hit list.
The court will be more troubled by the shocking abuses of authority than by the grossness of the alleged cannibalism plot, an