MANHATTAN (CN) - The former police officer who fantasized about raping, torturing, killing and eating women made bond Tuesday after a federal judge found that the "deeply disturbing, misogynistic chats and emails" did not amount to a conspiracy.
Gilberto Valle wrote about his sordid fantasies on Darkfetishnet.com, and a description of those posts in the 2012 federal indictment of the then-28-year-old New York City police officer led to his "Cannibal Cop" rechristening by the media.
As a controversy brewed about whether the sensational case represented a criminal conspiracy or a "thought crime," jurors convicted Valle on a charge that carried the possibility of life imprisonment.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe overturned the jury's verdict in a mammoth opinion filed Monday night, finding that the prosecution's evidence was "not sufficient to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Valle entered into a genuine agreement to kidnap a woman, or that he specifically intended to commit a kidnapping."
"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," Gardephe wrote in a 118-page opinion. "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."
Having posted a $100,000 bond after a hearing this morning, Valle told a throng of reporters outside the courthouse that he wanted "to apologize to everyone who has been hurt, shocked or offended by my infantile actions."
The Queens man remains convicted of having used a national crime database without authorization after jurors found that the officer used police software to find out private information about the objects of his fantasy.
Public defender Julia Gatto, who wept when a jury convicted her client, appeared overjoyed while awaiting the start of the hearing before Gardephe this morning. She kicked off proceedings with a motion to proceed immediately to sentencing on the remaining charge.
The maneuver would have gotten Valle released on time served because the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor offense would have been one year, a shorter amount of time than Valle already has spent inside the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman opposed that motion based on her plans to challenge the judge's acquittal.
"The government certainly respects the court's decision but believes the jury got it right, and it is our intention to appeal," Waxman said.
Waxman had wanted Valle to remain behind bars pending that appeal "to ensure the safety of the community and the victims," but Gardephe shot this request down.
Gatto emphasized that her client already had been imprisoned for more than 21 months, including seven months in solitary confinement to protect him from other inmates.
Speaking of the sentencing exposure on the remaining count, Gatto said, "He has served that time and then some."
Noting her client's now "notorious" reputation, Gatto said "he wants nothing more than to go home and be with his family."
Valle's mother, who sat in court throughout the trial, also attended this morning's proceedings. She appeared to bend her head in prayer before the hearing and stood behind Valle in a subsequent press conference outside the courthouse.
Gatto meanwhile slammed the government for what she called an "overzealous prosecution" at an earlier conference before her client was released.
Although he stopped short of explicitly agreeing with that position, Gardephe said a finding of prosecutor misconduct would have been "unnecessary" in light of the acquittal.
Gardephe did add, however, that "certain arguments made by the government tended to undermine or contradict the court's prior rulings and jury instructions, raising concerns about whether - in what was an extraordinary case involving highly inflammatory and emotional subjects - the jury's verdict was the product of unfair prejudice."
During rebuttal summations, prosecutor Randall Jackson said: "Gil Valle's fantasy is about seeing women executed. The fantasies that he is engaged in is seeing women sexually assaulted, executed and left for dead. That is not a fantasy that is OK."
But Gardephe concluded that it was not up to the jury to decide whether the fantasy was "'okay' or 'not okay' - normal or abnormal."
Gatto echoed this point at her packed press conference.
"We don't put people in jail for their thoughts," the attorney said. "We are not the thought police, and the courts are not the deputy of the thought police."
Valle's bail package includes GPS monitoring and mental health treatment. He is unable to use his passport and is forbidden from using the Internet or having any contact with witnesses from the case.
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