A federal judge has overturned the conviction of former New York City police officer Gilberto Valle -- the "cannibal cop," found guilty of conspiring to kidnap, rape, kill and eat several women -- citing a lack of evidence.
Yesterday's decision by Paul G. Gardephe of Federal District Court in Manhattan vacates Valle's conviction on kidnapping conspiracy, for which he faced life in prison.
“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 in his 118-page opinion, issued late Monday.
According to TIME, Valle's conviction "was largely based on evidence found on fetish websites in which Valle openly discussed which women in his life would be easiest to kidnap and then butcher, sending online friends 'blueprint' documents including real women’s names and photos."
Valle was arrested in late 2012 and convicted in March 2013, following his wife's discovery of his online activities. He has remained behind bars since his arrest.
While prosecutors argued that Valle's plans had crossed from fantasy into "the world of reality," Valle's attorneys appealed his conviction on the basis that jurors weren't able to see past his fetishes. Gardephe concurred.
“No one was ever kidnapped, no attempted kidnapping ever took place, and no real-world, non-Internet -based steps were ever taken to kidnap anyone,” Gardephe 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 conspiracy to commit kidnapping.”
Gardephe upheld Valle's conviction on a charge of illegally using the NYPD database to compile information on potential victims, for which Valle could be sentenced to up to a year in prison.
A hearing is set for today to determine his status.