(CN) - The New York City Police Department officer who fantasized about kidnapping, cooking and eating women is guilty of conspiracy, a jury ruled Tuesday.
Jurors also convicted the 28-year-old Gilberto Valle of breaking into a national crime database to profile his targets. As the verdict was read, the eyes of Valle's defense attorney, Julie Gatto, filled with tears.
Valle's defense sought to portray Valle's disturbing online posts as pure fantasy. In a trial laden with sordid details, Gatto had also emphasized that jurors should not convict Valle based on "emotion and disgust alone."
Investigators insisted, however, that the Queens-based Valle engaged in real chats with three individuals: Dale Bollinger, a Brit who wrote under the pseudonyms Christopher Collins and Moody Blues; an as-yet-unidentified man who called himself Aly Khan; and a New Jersey man named Michael Vanhise.
Jurors made no eye contact with Valle or his lawyers as they filed into the courtroom, and they fixed their gazes directly at the judge.
As the foreman read the two "guilty" counts, Gatto put her head on the defense table, and Valle's mother shook her head from the gallery. The other jurors, equally divided by gender, confirmed that they agreed with the conclusion.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe thanked them for their careful attention to "material that degrades the human spirit and corrupts the human soul."
The case called for them to spend weeks sifting through the contents of Darkfetishnet.com, a site Valle used to access snuff images of dead women and a simulated torture video.
There he also met the kindred spirits who chatted with him about kidnapping, raping, killing, cooking and eating women.
Able to access his account there through his iPhone, Valle allegedly admitted after his arrest that he even used the site while working the beat on the Upper West Side.
His arresting officer testified that Valle said he first became interested in cannibalism in college, but did not find Darkfetishnet until 2010.
Valle shut down his Darkfetishnet account before the FBI began investigating him in late September 2012, causing all the conversations he had there to be permanently deleted. The FBI recovered the conversations through computer forensic investigation and through spyware that Valle's concerned wife had installed on the computer and sent to investigators.
At an ad hoc press conference on a rainy plaza near the court, Gatto echoed her statements at trial that the shocking evidence prevented jurors from dispassionately weighing the case.
"We're disappointed because the jury just was unable to get past the thoughts because the thoughts were so bizarre," she said.
Prosecutors proved that Valle went beyond fantasy to kidnapping conspiracy by posting pictures of real women he knew from social media sites such as Facebook.
Valle even maintained friendships with two of the women he wrote about eating: Kimberly Sauer and Maureen Hartigan.
Testimony revealed that, as they plotted, Valle sent Moody Blues a YouTube clip of Sauer, in a bikini, swimming with dolphins. "I'd like to have her arm on a bbq," he wrote, adding that he would use her head "as a centerpiece, frozen with her final expression of fear."
The pair also discussed detailed logistics about how to kidnap the women, with Valle sending Moody a two-page document titled "Abducting and Cooking Kimberly: A Blueprint." The guide included instructions such as buying "cheap sneakers" and putting something in the trunk to "collect DNA."
Gatto, Valle's defense attorney, hoped to show that even these specifics could not show conspiracy since there were also many inconsistencies.
Though Valle emphasized the need for rope, chloroform chemicals and duct tape in his plots, agents testified that none of these products were found in his apartment.
Likewise, the Sauer "blueprint" misidentified her last name, age, place of birth, degree and former university. As a longtime friend and former classmate of Sauer, these are all details that Valle would know.
In another plot to kidnap and sell a woman named "Alyssa" to co-conspirator Michael Vanhise, the pair discussed a price of $4,000. Vanhise, a cash-strapped 22-year-old who lives with his grandmother, never delivered the money but kept hatching plots with Valle.
The Khan chats also turned up apparent inconsistencies.
In those chats, Valle pretended to have a remote house in Pennsylvania, and wrote that he planned to lure Sauer to India before changing the venue to an unspecified Pakistani hotel.
Valle's defense attorney Robert Baum warned after the verdict was read that the conviction set "a very dangerous precedent" for speech on the Internet.
Judge Gardephe discouraged jurors from speaking to the press too widely about their verdict, comparing them to "pilgrims, of a sort," who should respect the deliberations of their colleagues.
They spent 2 1/2 days in apparently conscientious deliberations, poring over six transcripts, a stipulation and even legal instructions regarding jurisdiction. A lawyer and a computer professional sat on the panel.
Valle faces life in prison when he is sentenced on June 19.
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