NYC cannibal case tests lines of fantasy
NEW YORK – In Internet chats as breezy as they were bizarre, a police officer accused of plotting to kidnap and eat as many as 100 women was once cautioned not to be wasteful when cooking a victim because “there is nearly 75 pounds of food there.”
But no one was ever actually harmed in Gilberto Valle’s alleged plot, let alone eaten. And a defense attorney said the officer was merely engaging in harmless Internet fantasy.
Where exactly the line is drawn between bizarre talk and a true plot has emerged as the key question in a case that has shocked even the most jaded New Yorkers.
Indeed, experts say many people have a compulsion to create horrific scenarios about cannibalism, and that the Internet allows them to indulge in their dark side anonymously and – usually – safely.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly declined to comment Friday on a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan that read like “Silence Of The Lambs” and earned Valle instant tabloid infamy.
Valle is a six-year NYPD veteran, a college grad and father of an infant child.
At a bail hearing Thursday, defense attorney Julia Gatto argued that he never posed a threat. Charges of kidnapping with the intent to murder are overblown, she said.
Her client “at worst is someone who has sexual fantasies about people he knows and he talks about it on the Internet, but not act on it,” she said. “Nothing has happened. We may be offended. ... But it’s just talk, your honor.”
But prosecutors won the argument to jail Valle by claiming his fantasies had morphed into a very real threat.
At the time of his arrest, Valle was on the verge of “kidnapping a woman, cooking her and actually eating her,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman.
The government cited evidence that Valle compiled a dossier on women he knew – and hoped to turn into meals.
“How big is your oven?” an unidentified co-conspirator asked in a July chat about one alleged target.
“Big enough to fit one these girls if I folded their legs,” Valle responded, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors accused Valle of running names of women on a police computers without permission to get more information on them, and of following two of them, once while on-duty. He also made a cellphone call from near the home of one woman, authorities said.
Some of Valle’s alleged conduct raises red flags, Parsons said.
“This is somebody using a database to target potential victims,” he said. “That means it’s more serious.”
Associated Press Writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.