Gilberto Valle: Cannibal Cop Cleared Of All Charges, Judge Declares Fantasizing 'Is Not A Crime'

Gilberto Valle, who is commonly referred to as the "cannibal cop," was cleared of all criminal charges by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Thursday. In March, 2013, Valle was convicted of conspiracy to kidnap and improperly accessing a law enforcement database. The charges stemmed from accusations that the former New York City police officer planned to kidnap, kill, and eat one or more women.

As reported by Gothamist, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was alerted to Valle's unusual fetish by his estranged wife, Kathleen Cooke Mangan.

According to reports, Mangan was searching Valle's computer when she discovered a file labeled "abducting and cooking." When she opened the file, she was disturbed to find the names and photographs of numerous women -- who she assumed her estranged husband planned to harm.

The file also contained a shopping list, which included supplies necessary to abduct, restrain, kill, and eat a hypothetical victim.

Mangan immediately contacted authorities and fled the home with her 12-month-old daughter.

As a result of Mangan's report, Gilberto Valle was arrested on October 25, 2012 -- and subsequently charged with conspiracy to kidnap. Following his arrest, Valle's computer was seized and he was terminated from the New York Police Department.

As the details of his alleged crime were indeed bizarre, the former police officer was dubbed the cannibal cop.

A search of Valle's computer revealed even more disturbing evidence, including an unusual conversation with an online friend. As reported by the New York Times, the cannibal cop and his co-conspirator had lengthy online discussions about their plans to abduct, kill, and eventually eat their victims.

"I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus... Cook her over a low heat, keep her alive as long as possible."
Although the former officer admitted he has an atypical fetish, his attorney, Julia L. Gatto, argued that he never actually committed a crime.
"At worst, this is someone who has sexual fantasies... There is no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality."
Despite Gatto's argument that her client simply thought about committing a crime, the authorities disagreed.

Federal prosecutor Hadassa Waxman contends Gilberto Valle's fantasies went too far, as he maintained a detailed list of "at least 100 women" who he planned to abduct, kill, and eat.

Waxman said Valle and his online friends eventually focused their efforts on three particular women -- who the cannibal cop actually knew.

According to reports, the former officer used his position with the NYPD to gain information about one of the women via the National Crime Information Center.

He is also accused of intimidating and stalking at least one of the women -- with the intention of eventually using her to fulfill his fantasy.

Although he vehemently denied harming anyone, or actually intending to harm anyone, Gilberto Valle was found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap and accessing the NCIC without prior authorization in March, 2013.

The so-called cannibal cop was facing life in prison. However, less than one year later Judge Paul Gardephe overrode the jury's verdict as he believed the former officer was simply engaging in "fantasy role-play."

As reported by Daily Mail, Judge Gardephe subsequently sentenced Valle to time served and ordered his release. On Thursday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judge's decision.

Writing for the majority, Judge Barrington Parker explains the court's ruling.

"This is a case about the line between fantasy and criminal intent... Fantasizing about committing a crime, even a crime of violence against a real person whom you know, is not a crime."
As reported by MSN, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Gardephe's decision in a majority vote. However, Circuit Judge Chester Straub dissented. In his opinion, Gilberto Valle's conviction, as decided by the original jury, should stand.
"It was, and remains, for the jury to determine the factual question of whether Valle had criminal intent... The jury considered and rejected Valle's defense that he was simply pretending to commit a crime."
Although Gilberto Valle was cleared of all criminal charges, he may be stuck with the nickname. As his name and images have been in the news for more than three years, he may always be remembered as the cannibal cop.

[Photo by Seth Weng/AP Photo]