July 1, 2014

Fantasizing, in writing, on the internet, about terrible crimes — cannibalism — when is it a crime?

We talked about Gilberto Valle a year and a half ago: "When does a fantasized crime become an actual crime?"

The jury found Valle guilty back in March 2013, but today we hear that the trial judge, federal district court judge Paul G. Gardephe, has granted a verdict of acquittal based on insufficient evidence of a conspiracy to commit kidnapping.  Valle was prosecuted for what was "more likely than not...  fantasy role-play."
"[O]nce the lies and the fantastical elements are stripped away, what is left are deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror and degradation. 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."
That charge had a maximum sentence of life in prison.
[F]ederal prosecutors [had] argued that Mr. Valle had taken “concrete steps” to further his plans, including illegally looking up potential victims in a law enforcement database, carrying out surveillance of them, and using the Internet to research ways to abduct, subdue and cook potential victims.
The conviction for illegally gaining access to the law enforcement database stands (with a possible sentence of up to 1 year).

So ends the saga of "The Cannibal Cop."

22 comments:

traditionalguy said...

What's the problem. He was just meditating.

Anonymous said...

Commenting on the Wrong Post Drunk Guy says:

Uh oh.

Meade said...

You are so adorable. I love you so much I just want to hold you in my arms and eat you up. Uncooked even.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...and using the Internet to research ways to abduct, subdue and cook potential victims.

Link Please?

Bob Boyd said...

The guy wasn't all bad. His writings about opening a human flesh restaurant he made it clear that he planned to cover all forms of contraception for any female employees.

BDNYC said...

Good. This was a thought crime, and the USAO overreached badly.

YoungHegelian said...

Well, at least the accused didn't say he wanted to fry the women in trans-fat & eat them accompanied by a 44 oz. Super Big Gulp soft drink.

Because, in Bloomberg's NYC, that would have been really evil!

Levi Starks said...

I don't like conspiracy laws.
They're used to convict people when you're sure they've done something wrong, put lack the evidence to prove it. Or if you just want to harass someone you find to be detestable (as in this case).
I was under the impression that a conspiracy required the action of 2 or more minds. A conspiracy that happens within a single mind is just someone thinking to themselves. The accused in this case would have been charged with "attempted" if his actions had gone past planning.
As to the illegal accessing police database? This is commonplace when someone in the family has a dispute and needs a little "extra" information edge to give them the upper hand.

Uncle Pavian said...

It's the end of the latest episode. There's still the possibility that the police union will either get him his job back or have him put on some kind of disability retirement for the PTSD he's suffered during the ordeal.

Anonymous said...

I think we're a schizophrenic society.

In cases like this we say, "Good! He didn't do anything and should be left alone."

But then after he goes and cooks and eats a woman we all yell, "The signs were all there! How could they have let this happen!"

Ugh.

traditionalguy said...

It was a Fantasy Crime in the first degree. So let someone give him a fantasy trial and then a fantasy sentence to fantasy jail. Two can play that game.

William said...

Just on a common sense basis, I would say that being stalked by a man with a lively interest in cannibalism and torture devices is an aggravating factor to the crime of stalking.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Uh, excuse me, but how is this sentence allowed to stand?

Despite the highly disturbing nature of Valle’s deviant and depraved sexual interests

This judge doesn't sound very sex positive to me and is likely a hateful bigot. Where are the protests?

jr565 said...

When I was younger I was really into drawing comics. I also had a morbid sense of humor. So when, for example I was asked to draw pictures for a project I wouldnn't just draw them I'd add details for shock value just to crack my friends up.
So, if the assignment was draw a tree, I'd draw a tree with a guy hanging from it. If it was a picture of a baby I'd draw a baby on heroin. Every picture was like that In one class. The teacher must have thought I was completely emotionally disturbed or thought I was going to shoot up the school or something. Point being it was just art. I wasn't planning on doing violence, I was just trying to provoke a reaction. And never went on to amy violence.

How serious was this guy when he discussed cannibalism? If he was actually seeking out the means to kidnap people that's one thing. But if he just talked about it on the internet that's something different. It's tough to justify life imprisonment for someone who didn't actually commit any acts.

SJ said...

Comparison question:

I think there's a distinction in law between artistic works depicting sexual interaction between adults and children, and works created by filming an act of sexual misconduct involving an adult and a child.

There's a different category for writings describing such acts. (Think Lolita...though if fiction is different from 'hypothetical exploration of how to do it', that distinction might be worth discussing.)

Is this similar?

Is there a difference between writing a hypothetical discussion of how to do an illegal action, and actual commission of the crime?

Is the legal status different based on the expected level of social disgust at the illegal act?

Biff said...

The Professor wrote: "Gardephe was prosecuted for what was 'more likely than not... fantasy role-play.'"

An interesting slip. Gardephe was the judge, not the prosecuted.

An accident? A sub-conscious commentary? An intentional jape? A waggish editorial? A test of reader attention?

You be the judge.

Richard Dolan said...

"So ends the saga of 'The Cannibal Cop.'"

It may not be over. The Govt has a right to appeal from a post verdict order, setting aside a jury's finding of guilt and directing the entry of a judgment of acquittal. See US v. Wilson, 420 US 332 (1975). That's what happened in this case. Since the SDNY thought the case was serious enough to indict and try, I suspect they may think it serious enough to take the appeal.

Freeman Hunt said...

Basically, stalkers get a pass. Nothing new.

Cape Fear Cannibal Edition.

Ann Althouse said...

"An interesting slip. Gardephe was the judge, not the prosecuted. An accident? A sub-conscious commentary? An intentional jape? A waggish editorial? A test of reader attention?"

Thanks for the sympathetic read.

Just a plain old error.

Fixed now.

stlcdr said...

Maybe he is just doing research for a movie so we can all revel in this fantasy?

tim maguire said...

When does it become a crime to fantasize about a crime? In a legitimate state, never.

Robert Cook said...

"I think there's a distinction in law between artistic works depicting sexual interaction between adults and children, and works created by filming an act of sexual misconduct involving an adult and a child."

I believe one risks prosecution in America for making works of visual art depicting sexual activity involving adults and children.