Gilberto Valle III (born April 14, 1984) is a former New York City police officer who was convicted by a jury in March 2013 of conspiracy to kidnap, before the judge in the case, Paul Gardephe, overturned the verdict 16 months later. The circuit court later affirmed the acquittal in December 2015, but the prosecution's appeal could yet go to the Supreme Court.
Valle was arrested after his wife discovered he was spending time in chat rooms describing detailed plans to abduct, torture, rape and cannibalize women; Valle claimed all scenarios he described were mere fantasy. The case drew widespread attention for its unusual nature — Valle was dubbed the "Cannibal Cop" — and because of the legal issue of whether describing criminal activities crosses the line into criminal intent.
Gilberto Valle was born in Queens, New York, in 1984, and attended Archbishop Molloy High School. He attended the University of Maryland, graduating in 2006 with a degree in psychology.
Valle joined the New York City Police Department in 2006, and was assigned to the 26th Precinct in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. He married Kathleen Cooke Mangan, whom he had met on the dating website OKCupid, in 2010 in Spokane, Washington. They had a daughter born in early 2012.
He was fired from the NYPD following his arrest.
On October 25, 2012, Valle was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. The arrest occurred after his wife reported to police that she had found in his Internet search engine history a series of chat room communications on Dark Fetish Net, a forum dedicated to sexual fetishes and fantasies involving torture, rape, murder and cannibalism. Valle had been chatting with another user about torturing and murdering her, as well as murdering and cannibalizing more than 100 other women.
Valle faced a maximum of life in prison for the conspiracy charge, and a maximum of five years for accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database without authorization. Valle's wife testified against him during the trial. Throughout the trial, Valle claimed that the chat room communications were mere fantasy, and that he had no intention of acting on them. He was found guilty of all charges in March 2013.
Judge Paul G. Gardephe of Federal District Court overturned Valle's conviction on the conspiracy charge in June 2014, saying the evidence supported his contention that he was engaged in only "fantasy role-play." Valle had at this point served 21 months in prison. The lesser conviction regarding the database remained standing, but Valle was sentenced to time served and released. The government appealed the dismissal of the conspiracy charge to the Second Circuit.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on December 3, 2015, regarding the two-questions on appeal:
"The Government appeals from the district court's judgment of acquittal on the conspiracy count, and Valle separately appeals from the judgment of conviction on the CFAA count. Because we agree that there was insufficient evidence as to the existence of a genuine agreement to kidnap and of Valle's specific intent to commit a kidnapping, we affirm the district court's judgment of acquittal on the conspiracy count. Because we find that the district court's construction of the CFAA violates the rule of lenity, we reverse the judgment of conviction on the CFAA count."
Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman wrote in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune that there is a "high probability" of the appeal continuing to U.S. Supreme Court.A memoir, RAW DEAL: The Untold Story of the NYPD’s “Cannibal Cop”, where the author raises a question of when does thought become a crime. Co-written with Brian Whitney and published by WildBlue Press.
A documentary film, Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop, chronicled Valle's arrest, trial, imprisonment, and release. Directed by Erin Lee Carr, the film debuted on HBO on May 11, 2015.
An episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit titled "Thought Criminal" was inspired by Valle's case.