The conviction of a former New York City police officer in a plot to kidnap, torture, kill and eat women was overturned by a federal judge who said there was not sufficient evidence to support it, reports the New York Times. Judge Paul Gardephe granted Gilberto Valle a verdict of acquittal on the most serious count that he faced, kidnapping conspiracy. He could have faced life in prison on that count. “The evidentiary record is such that it is more likely than not the case that all of Valle's Internet communications about kidnapping are fantasy role-play,” Judge Gardephe said.
No women were ever abducted or harmed in the plot, but prosecutors told the jury Valle had “crossed the line” while immersing himself in a fetish website where he communicated electronically with others about how he wanted to abduct women, butcher and cook them, and then eat them. Prosecutors argued that 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. “He left the world of fantasy; he entered the world of reality,” said prosecutor Hadassa Waxman. The case drew wide attention because it involved a police officer and it raised the question of when a virtual crime, discussed and plotted in Internet chat rooms, crosses over into actual criminal activity.