New York – A New York City police officer accused of plotting to kidnap, cook and eat woman was convicted of conspiracy Tuesday.
A jury, in what the tabloids dubbed the "Cannibal Cop" case, reached a guilty verdict in Manhattan federal court.
The FBI arrested 28-year-old Officer Gilberto Valle (VAL'-ee) last year based on a tip by his now-estranged wife.
Prosecutors said Valle plotted with others he met on fetish websites to abduct, torture and eat women he knew, including his wife.
“Today, a unanimous jury found that Gilberto Valle’s detailed and specific plans to abduct women for the purpose of committing grotesque crimes were very real, and that he was guilty as charged," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "The Internet is a forum for the free exchange of ideas, but it does not confer immunity for plotting crimes and taking steps to carry out those crimes."
Valle's lawyers argued he was just fantasizing and had no intention of harming anyone.
Valle, who was found guilty of accessing a national crime database, slumped his head, as did the entire defense team, when the verdict was announced. He later hugged a lawyer, Julia Gatto.
His mother, Elizabeth, shook her head.
"I'm in shock and want to be left alone," she said after her son was led away. She said to herself as she sat on a court bench alone: "This is going to kill my mother."
Valle faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced.
Prosecutors countered that an analysis of Valle's computer found he was taking concrete steps to abduct his wife and at least five other women he knew. They said he looked up potential targets on a restricted law enforcement database, searched the Internet for how to knock someone out with chloroform, and showed up on the block of one woman after agreeing to kidnap her for $5,000 for a New Jersey man, now awaiting trial.
Valle "left the world of fantasy and entered the world of reality," prosecutor Hadassa Waxman said during closing arguments. She said the officer's arrest near Halloween last year interrupted a ghoulish plan to "kidnap, torture, rape and commit other horrific acts on young women."
The jury, which deliberated for just over two days, heard Valle's potential victims testify that they were trading innocent-sounding emails and texts with him, unaware he was supposedly scheming to make meals out of them. The government also sought to drive home the point that Valle was more of a threat because he was a police officer.
The trial opened a window on strange online underworld where people share sick and twisted fantasies of torture, murder, dismemberment and cannibalism.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.