MANHATTAN (CN) - Already cleared of cannibalism-conspiracy charges, Gilberto Valle walked out of court today a free man after receiving a sentence of probation for misusing a law-enforcement database as masturbatory fodder.
"My legacy is not going to be the 'Cannibal Cop,'" Valle said outside of court after the sentencing hearing. "There is more to me than that."
Indeed the experience of watching his lawyers "vigorously defend my innocence" has inspired Valle to become a criminal defense attorney, he said.
Meanwhile, prosecutors still hoping to have Valle spend life in prison are girding up for an appellate battle.
Tabloids first tagged Valle as the "Cannibal Cop" after his chats on Darkfetishnet.com filled the pages of a salacious federal indictment, accusing him of plotting to rape, torture, kill and eat his wife and other women he knew.
The case fueled an ongoing controversy about the line separating a thought crime from an actual criminal conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe eventually found that the conspiracy crime existed mostly in Valle's mind, but he let stand another conviction for Valle's use of a restricted database to research the targets of his fantasies.
Although prosecutors hope to reinstate the major count on appeal, the government agreed that the privacy count had a maximum sentence of one-year imprisonment, which was far shorter than the 21 months Valle already served before his trial.
Valle spent 10 months of his pretrial incarceration in solitary confinement.
Before the hearing began, the parties agreed that one year of probation was appropriate on the remaining count, and quibbled only over the terms.
"This is a case that has been very controversial," Valle's lawyer Julia Gatto told the court on Wednesday.
She added that the basic terms of the sentence are less problematic.
Both parties agreed that Valle would continue mental health treatment, but disagreed about whether his program would be sex offender-specific.
The latter program would not allow Valle to "freely explore his sexual fantasies," Gatto said.
Valle also agreed to computer monitoring that would keep him away from fetish websites, but prosecutors wanted him off the Internet entirely.
Such a condition would prevent Valle from finding a job and turning a "dark corner" of his life, Gatto said.
"He is peaceful," she said, referring to Valle. "He is kind. He is determined. He is smart."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson reiterated his position that Valle's actions went "far beyond imagining it."
Quoting from Gardephe's opinion, Jackson said that Valle engage in "deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror, and degradation."
Valle apologized for those musings at length after the prosecutor finished his argument.
"My monumentally stupid decision lacked morality and circumspection, and was an embarrassment to my family, my friends, the New York City Police Department, the University of Maryland, and Archbishop Molloy High School," he said.
Regretting having taken away his family's "peace and anonymity," Valle also said he was "sorry to all of the women who were involved in this case."
"Most of them were friends of mine who I cared about, one was my wife who I loved," Valle said.
He added that "seeing them up on the witness stand as part of the trial, fully aware that their names would be in the newspapers, continues to be very troubling for me." "My actions were a tremendous betrayal of their trust," Valle continued. "All they did was live their lives, and they were so undeserving of all of this attention. I just hope that they know they were never in danger."
Valle also assured Gardephe that he would never act on his very public fantasies.
"To, Your Honor, I want to say unequivocally that you made the right decision, and you never have to have a 'what if' scenario going through your mind," Valle said. "I am incapable of violence. I would never do the things I talked about on the Internet. Never. I clearly have some issues that I need to address, and I am addressing them but at no time did anything extend beyond cyberspace. What I needed was help, not a prosecution."
Prosecutors have shown no signs of relenting, but their promised appeal of the vacated conviction does not appear to have yet hit the 2nd Circuit.
Now living in his mother's house in Queens, Valle vowed to be in the life of his 3-year-old daughter, "do some volunteering and to one day attend law school" to become "a productive citizen once again."
He repeated those sentiments to dozens of cameras and reporters following the sensational case outside the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse.
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