‘Cannibal Cop’: Were Web Chats about Eating Women Conspiracy to Murder or Just a Sick Fantasy?

A New York police officer is facing charges of conspiring to commit abhorrent crimes against female targets. But his defense says he is only guilty of fetish fantasy.

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AP / Elizabeth Williams

In this courthouse sketch, Gilbert Valle, reacts during his trial in federal court.

A New York City policeman is accused of conspiring to abduct and commit grotesque crimes against several women, including his wife, and a jury will have to decide whether or not he really meant it.

Officer Gilberto Valle, 28,  is on trial in U.S. District Court for allegedly plotting with his web buddies to kidnap, kill and eat female body parts, according to court documents. He is also accused of seeking out his victims via a law enforcement database that he was not authorized to use and singling out a specific victim.

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In the chats Valle is accused of having with another individual over the web, he spoke of an 18-year-old woman as “one of the most desirable pieces of meat I’ve ever met.” They have detailed conversations about how to kidnap women, which women among his acquaintances would be the easiest targets and even how much it would cost to kidnap them. The e-mails they exchanged contained photos and names of real people.

When his wife Kathleen Mangan found out about the alleged chats between her husband and another conspirator in September, she left their home in Queens, N.Y. and turned his computer over to FBI agents. Valle was arrested in October on federal conspiracy charges. If convicted he faces life behind bars.

One of the men he allegedly conspired with, who goes by the Internet moniker “Moody Blues” has been arrested in Britain on child pornography charges along with another individual, the New York Post reported. Prosecutors say the man told Valle that he had already killed and eaten two women.

But proving Valle’s intent to carry out some of the grisly things he discussed with Moody Blues and other fetishists could be a difficult burden for the prosecution. None of the alleged plans came to fruition and no harm ever came to any of the women Valle mentioned. No evidence of a plot was discovered other than what was on his computer, and none of the equipment he would need to carry out a torture or kidnapping ever surfaced. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe said in court that “there is almost no evidence of action by Valle beyond computer-based activities.” Defense attorneys maintain that all Valle was doing was engaging in an elaborate Internet fantasy with online friends, and that he never had any intention of committing the crimes.

“The real issue here is that the prosecution has a tremendously high burden that these plans to kill and eat women were more than just a fantasy,” says New York defense attorney Stuart Slotnick. “The basic problem is that he never did that to anyone. There are people out there with all types of eccentric quirks, this happens to be a sick, sick sexual fantasy.” Prosecutors would need evidence of wrongdoing, Slotnick maintains — for example, testimony that someone was held captive for a period of time, or drugged, or proof of some real action taken by Valle. Even gaining unauthorized access to the law enforcement database may not be enough for the kind of conviction prosecutors seek. “In order to get a conviction, you need to build a wall of evidence,” Slotnick says. “That might be one brick, and that alone is not enough.”

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The defense, for its part, is intent on driving home the idea that Valle’s plots were pure fantasy. Lawyer Robert Baum argued that emails that appeared to show Valle’s intent to kill were indistinguishable from those that were obviously works of fantasy. For example, in one e-mail Valle boasts of having “a place in the mountains” to hold the women. But an FBI agent testified that there was no evidence any such place existed.

“I just have a world in my mind and in that world, I am kidnapping women and selling them to people interested in buying them,” Valle wrote in a February, 2012 e-mail, the New York Times reported. In another, an individual asked him how many of these abductions he had comitted. His answer: “In my imagination a lot. Haha.”

But for a work of imagination, Valle’s fantasies appear grounded in a troubling amount of fact. One prosecution witness, FBI agent Corey Walsh, testified that a search of his computer revealed several photos of a woman who turned out to Valle’s former supervisor at the NYPD. And emails with an alleged co-conspirator indicate that Valle offered the woman as a potential victim.

Mangan, who testified against her husband this week, said that she had no doubt he intended to carry out his fantasies. She found that he had been frequenting a website were people routinely discussed graphic violence against women and claimed to have seen a photo of a dead girl on the site’s homepage.  She even describes what she says was Valle’s plan to dismember her: “I was supposed to be tied by my feet, my throat slit, and they were going to watch the blood rush from my body,” she said.

When one of her husband’s lawyers asked Mangan why she had resisted the defense team’s efforts to speak to her, according to the Daily News, she replied: “You represent the man who wants to kill me. I do not want to talk to you.”