(NEW YORK) -- The so-called cannibal cop is free.
Former New York City Police Officer Gilberto Valle, 40, was released from federal custody less than 24 hours after a judge overturned his jury conviction in a case called a reflection of “the Internet age in which we live.”
The alleged conspiracy to kidnap, torture, rape, murder and cannibalize women that Valle was found guilty of "existed solely in cyberspace," Judge Paul Gardephe ruled. He conceded the detail may have been graphic and "deeply disturbing" – at one point Valle mentioned "human-size ovens and rotisseries" and pulley apparatuses for torture. But despite Valle's "deviant and depraved sexual interests," Gardephe said "no real-world, non-Internet-based steps were even taken."
"The judge's well-reasoned decision validates what we have said since the beginning: There was no crime," defense attorney Julia Gatto said. "Gil Valle is innocent of any conspiracy. Gil is guilty of nothing more than having unconventional thoughts."
"The government believes the jury got it right," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman. Valle walked out of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on $100,000 bond. He had been jailed since 2012 and planned to return to a home in Queens, where he will be subject to home detention monitoring by GPS device.
He can have no computer or Internet use and no contact with any of the women who testified against him. Once outside, he told reporters, "I want to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone I hurt, shocked and offended with my infantile behavior."
At his often macabre trial prosecutors revealed Valle’s Internet conversation on Dark Fetish Network. Many of them involved photographs of women he knew, including his wife, work colleagues and college friends and “chats” with users about committing acts of sexual violence against those women.
The judge sided with Valle, who argued his chats were nothing but fantasy role-play.
“Once the lies and fantastical elements are stripped away, what is left are deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror and degradation,” the judge wrote. “Despite the highly disturbing nature of Valle’s deviant and depraved sexual interests, his chats and emails about these interests are not sufficient – standing alone – to make out the elements of a conspiracy to commit kidnapping.”
A separate count of improperly accessing a law enforcement database was upheld.
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