NYPD Officer Gilberto Valle, 28, was arrested in October after he was accused of plotting to kidnap, rape and kill dozens of women.
The six-year police veteran also planned to cook and eat the women, which he described in communications with a would-be accomplice online.
Throughout his trial, his lawyer adamantly argued that Valle, who used the screen name Girlmeat Hunter, did not plan to follow through with his actions and told the court that Valle’s cannibalism fetish was strictly reserved for the online fantasy world.
In a recent article, CNN reported that in one online conversation, Valle discussed how he was interested in “a restaurant that sells women in all varieties, sometimes grilled or roasted as whole, sometimes in steaks or pieces, sometimes a la carte, or in a buffet.”
Assistant U.S Attorney Randall Jackson put this obsession into perspective: “His porn consists of dead bodies. That is not normal,” he said in court.
A handful of individuals have followed through with their violent online fantasies, committing assault, murder, mutilation and cannibalistic acts on both willing and unwilling participants. But Valle only got as far as planning to live out his deadly dream, raising the question: at what point does a violent fantasy become grounds for criminal charges?
Perhaps the most shocking known example of fetish fantasy turned grim reality occurred on March 9, 2001. Bernd Jürgen Brandes, an engineer from Berlin, arrived at the home of Armin Meiwes in Rotenburg, Germany.
Brandes had answered an ad seeking “a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.” Shortly after arriving, he was murdered and, as advertised, consumed by Meiwes.
First, Meiwes cut off his willing victim’s penis and they tried eating it together, but gave up when it was too chewy. Meiwes then sautéed it, but it was too burned to be edible, so he fed it to his dog. With a camera rolling, Meiwes plied Brandes with liquor and pills, put him in the tub to bleed for a while, then killed him in a special room he’d set up for this very purpose. The cannibal then butchered Brandes’ body and ate him over the course of 10 months. The two hour video tape that captures Brandes’ hideous end has not been released to the public.
Meiwes was tracked down in December 2002 after a student in Austria contacted police regarding a message that he had posted online, in which he described parts of the murder.
“If I hadn’t been so stupid as to keep looking on the Internet, I would have taken my secret to the grave,” said Meiwes.
Meiwes, originally sentenced to eight years in prison, was ultimately sentenced to life on retrial. Ironically, while incarcerated, he became a vegetarian.
Years apart and thousands of miles away, an American jury came to a consensus regarding the “New York City Cannibal Cop” who, unlike Meiwes, never got to sauté anybody.
In a 12 day trial, Valle’s horrified and embarrassed mother listened as his online communications were read aloud. Valle’s wife Kathleen–one of his intended targets–testified against her husband. On March 12, 2013, after 16 hours of deliberation, a jury found Valle guilty of conspiracy, determining that his intentions were serious. ”Today, a unanimous jury found that Gilberto Valle’s detailed and specific plans to abduct women for the purpose of committing grotesque crimes were very real, and that he was guilty as charged,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara after the verdict was read.
Throughout the trial, defense attorney Julia Gatto attempted to prove that the actions of Valle were those of a misguided man who never meant harm to anyone. Calling her client’s fantasies “ugly thoughts,” she argued that Valle was only role playing and did not intend to actually commit the acts he described.
Gatto referred to instances where Valle provided false information about his alleged targets to the people he chatted with online, such as giving fake locations and lying about watching a woman in Ohio when records show he never went to the state.
But, the gruesome chats were too overwhelming. As a disappointed Gatto put it after the trial, “We think the jury just, just was unable to get past the thoughts. The thoughts were so bizarre.” There’s also the matter of Valle’s illegal use of police databases, of which he was also found guilty. Valle, who faces life in prison, is scheduled for sentencing on July 19.
Although cops are known for famously getting away with egregious behavior in the United States and abroad, is sexual depravity where the men in blue draw the line?
In 2011, Robin Leigh Pagoria, then 45, was a Florida corrections deputy when she subjected two female victims–aged as young as 10–to various torture sessions as a means of satisfying her spanking fetish.
According to authorities, Pagoria handcuffed the girls naked to a desk and viciously beat them with a leather paddle, then sent the videos to a boyfriend.
She met the man on a fetish website called spankfinders.com.
Instead of going to trial, Pagoria pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Police in Australia tracked down and arrested her long-distance boyfriend. It’s clear in this case, that it isn’t the spanking that’s the issue, it’s the sexual arousal Pagoria and her beau received from it. Last month, a cop in Asheville, N.C., was given a 60 day suspended sentence, 24 hours of community service, and ordered to pay a $100 fine for spanking a 3-year-old girl hard enough to cause significant bruising. Aubrey Gerrard Green also resigned from the force and is ordered to take the girl to counseling.
While Valle’s “ugly thoughts” were repulsive to say the least, sexual fetishes are a common part of humanity, and the idea of criminalizing fantasies that don’t sit well with the public is a scary one.
Meiwes and Pagoria, and Valle, a court has ruled, all crossed the line and allowed their sexual obsessions to get the best of them. While it’s not easy to understand why someone may have a sexual fetish of cannibalism, there’s a vast array of sexual fetishes–and accompanying online communities–that are difficult to understand. There’s a fetish for crushing insects, and another for having ants crawl on your skin. How about a fetish for pregnant women? Yeah, it’s out there, too. The taboo factor of many fetishes is also their arousal factor. The internet, where one can find photos, videos, and co-fetishists to talk to, can become a place for a fetish to get out of hand and cross the line into crime. In many cases, however, the internet is an outlet for people with unusual sexual proclivities to find satisfaction without seeking a potentially illegal outlet in real life.
Having a disturbing fetish is not what should get people in trouble with the law; it’s the acts that said individuals carry out in order to reach sexual gratification.
With something as foreign and unpleasant as cannibalism, it’s a tricky line. If one posts an ad seeking a victim to eat, is that enough to show criminal intent? Or does one have to actually kill and eat the victim, like Meiwes did?
Valle may have never have acted on his sexual obsessions, but by using his authority and accessing a police database, as well as his preparations and detailed descriptions of what he wanted to do with his potential victims, it didn’t leave a doubt in the mind of the jury that he was going to, at one point or another, follow through with his fetish.
By entering a world of fantasy–particularly one that is built among an online community with the same fetish–one may become consumed with their sexual obsession take their fetish one step further and attempt to act it out in the real world. Though PETA may take issue with insect-crushers, it’s those who get off on harming others that need to be very careful.
Jeffrey Hartinger is a writer who lives in New York City. You can visit his website at www.thewhygenerationusa.blogspot.com
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