Why The Prosecution Of New York's 'Cannibal Cop' Is So Deeply Disturbing

Gilberto Valle Cannibal CopAssociated PressGilberto Valle with his daughter

New York Magazine’s Robert Kolker has a thought-provoking article that questions whether a 28-year-old cop should have been convicted in a twisted plot to kidnap and eat women.

Now-disgraced cop Gilberto Valle — who visited violent fetish websites like darkfetishnet.com — had unbelievably disturbing email conversations with three people about the ways he wanted to kidnap, assault, kill, and even cook specific women. One of those women was his own wife.

But prosecutors never found any physical evidence at his home that would have enabled him to carry out these plots (or fantasies, as Valle’s lawyers would call them), Kolker writes. He didn’t have an oven big enough for a human or a cleaver to chop the “girl meat” he allegedly wanted to eat. A jury still convicted him of kidnapping conspiracy, for which he could get life in prison.

Without physical evidence suggesting he would actually kidnap anybody, Valle’s conviction could represent the “fullest realisation yet of our justice system’s march toward something out of “Minority Report” — the investigation and prosecution of pre-crime,” Kolker writes.

To be sure, one could argue that the police should try to catch criminals before they kidnap or kill people. In December, a 15-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly plotting to shoot up an Arizona school.

While the boy didn’t have a gun yet, he did have 100 rounds of ammo. Should police have waited until he got a gun and tried to kill people before arresting him? Or should they have let him go because he never had a chance to commit the crime he was allegedly plotting?

It does seem fair to argue that cops should try to stop crimes before they happen, but in the Valle case, the New York Magazine article makes a pretty compelling argument that Valle never intended to carry out his crimes.

New York Mag’s Kolker caught up with forensic psychiatrist named Park Dietz who interviewed Valle for 18 hours before the trial. Dietz — who has interviewed John Hinckley, Jr., Andrea Yates, and serial killer Joel Rifkin in his 30-year career — seems fairly convinced that Valle’s cannibalism was pure fantasy.

From the New York Magazine article:

“I see him as many, many steps removed from the kind of person that might start to take action.” [Dietz said] Dietz is convinced that “to become a sex criminal acting on your paraphilia, you need more than your paraphilia.” He searched for evidence of something in Valle’s personality — “all the past actions and aggressive actions and character flaws that show us that he’s that one-in-1,000 monster. And I couldn’t find them.”

By Dietz’s reckoning, the circumstances surrounding the chats speak volumes about how ludicrous they were. If Valle ever had a fleeting thought of actually harming a woman, Dietz says, “he certainly did everything in his power to ensure that he would be immediately identified as the offender if he did so,” using a traceable IP address and a shared computer.

In stark contrast to the monster the media has made him out to be, Dietz described Valle as “the nicest guy you’d ever meet.”

Dietz didn’t end up testifying in the trial; Valle’s lawyers thought his analysis of the ex-cop’s dark fetish might distract the jury from the lack of evidence in the case. In the end, the jury may have still had a hard time believing that somebody who could fantasize about killing and eating women was anything but a monster.

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