From the depths of the vast, dark cyber sea of misogyny comes Gilberto Valle, the so-called cannibal cop, now in Manhattan Federal Court on charges of conspiring to make real his horrific fantasies about women.
Mere cyber porn is only in the depersonalizing shallows of this repository of hate that is at once heated with twisted desires and chilled by icy indifference. Valle plunged to depths most of us cannot even imagine, via an Internet portal called Dark Fetish Network.
Even as Valle sat in court this week, the 364 various groups on DFN included one called Cannibalism, Snuff with 835 members. Those Valle met with during his many hours on DFN included men who were even sicker than himself, among them an individual from England with the screen names Moody Blues and Meatmarketman.
“Moody Blues makes reference to eating children,” Judge Paul Gardephe noted in court on Tuesday.
The judge ordered any mention of Moody Blues’s sickest of twists redacted from the transcripts of online chats with Valle, in particular some talk of devouring a 5-year-old. The judge noted the chats showed that Valle’s culinary tastes did not extend to kids, and that the prosecution had plenty of material directly pertaining to the case at hand.
“The government has countless chats where the defendant speaks of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and cooking women,” the judge said.
The judge said he did not want Moody Blues’s sickness to influence the jury in its attempt to determine the essential legal question regarding Valle’s online talk.
“Mr. Valle’s entire defense is, he did not believe it was real,” the judge noted.
Valle does not dispute any of the facts—only the intent.
The problem for Valle, what made him more than just another fantasist, was that he had begun to speak of actual women. Among them was his wife, who had chanced to discover his cyber journeys to the darker than dark side on the family MacBook, and then taken the laptop to the FBI.
The wife, Kathleen Mangan-Valle, testified at the start of the trial on Monday and there was no disputing the reality of her fear and hurt, all the more so because the couple has a baby girl.
“I just can’t wait to get Kimberly cooking!”
On Tuesday, two other women, a college pal and a high school buddy, were called to the stand and testified about their seemingly normal friendship with the 28-year-old NYPD cop who now sat pale and blank-faced at the defendant's table. The pal from his days at the University of Maryland, Kimberly Sauer, said Valle had texted her when his child was born.
“It’s a baby girl!” he had announced.
At a later time, Sauer had met Valle, his wife, and child for brunch. Sauer testified that Valle and his wife seemed to get along well and that he appeared to be an attentive father to little Josephine.
“Josephine is a very cute baby, right?” the defense attorney asked.
“Objection,” the prosecutor said.
“Overruled,” the judge said.
Next on the stand was the buddy from Archbishop Molloy High School, Maureen Hartigan. She said Valle had once expressed interest in dating her, but she had said she just wanted to be friends and that was what they had seemed to remain. She recalled that Valle had texted her after he got married.
“It was great, short and sweet and small and not too expensive,” he had said.
He had texted again about his baby.
“Josephine is almost already … such a good baby.”
He had seemed to be less happy in his work as a cop in the 26th Precinct, already looking forward to when he could retire.
“I count down to 2026,” he texted.
The defense lawyer asked Hartigan if she had ever known Valle to be physically abusive with her or any other women.
“No,” Hartigan said.
The next witness was Kristen Ponticelli, an 18-year-old graduate of Archbishop Molloy. Her testimony was necessarily brief, as she had never met Valle, or had any inkling that he was stalking her.
The day’s testimony by these unwitting women of seemingly normal friendships turned disturbing when FBI agent Corey Walsh took the stand. He had seen combat as an army officer in Iraq, and had been an FBI agent for just a year. And now here he was, testifying about the DFN.
“Cannibalism, foot fetishes, asphyxiation fetishes, different things of that nature,” Walsh said.
Walsh then read aloud emails and chats that Valle had with Moody Blues and another man about doing unspeakable violence to the very same woman who had just been on the stand. Valle told the other man he would sell one of the women to him to do with her as he wished, for $5,000.
The talk seemed to lurch from fantasy toward the real when the other man asked if they could make the price $4,000. Valle insisted on $5,000, since he would be taking such considerable risk abducting her.
“Full payment due at delivery,” Valle noted.
“Can you have her tied barefoot?” the other man asked. “I don’t want her to kick me.”
With Moody Blues, Valle spoke in detail of cooking Sauer slowly.
“I really want her to suffer,” Valle said. “I just can’t wait to get Kimberly cooking!”
Moody Blues asked if he had ever eaten a black or Hispanic woman.
“White girls seem the most appetizing to me,” Valle said.
Moody Blues suggested at one point that they could use the bones to make stock.
“Girl soup,” Moody Blues said.
“Mmmm,” Valle said.
Moody Blues allowed that he preferred not to have sex with his food beforehand.
“Fine,” Valle said. “It’s OK with me. But I have to tell you she’s been one of my favorite victims to fantasize [about] for around 10 years now.”
The issue for the jury to decide is whether that longtime fantasy had begun to cross over into reality in the way of some jihadi fantasist joining in an actual plot. Was this a conspiracy as charged in the indictment, or just some make-believe as the defense contends?
However the case goes, even if it is decided that Valle was just at the most extreme limits of free speech, it would have been hard for the FBI to walk away. What if Valle and Moody Blues had gone on to act out their shared fantasy, right down to pouring oil on Sauer as she roasted?
“Wonderful," Valle had replied when Moody Blues described how the oil would cause her skin to sizzle, making her a “Southern-fried belle.”
Through all the testimony, Valle’s parents and brother sat in the second row of spectators, slumped in the impossibility of finding some appropriate way to be when your nebbishy son comes up a twisted cannibal in thought, if not in action.
His family very likely had no idea of his sick fantasies. His wife surely did not until she chanced unto them. Nor did his longtime friends.
To consider this and then look at the “cannibal cop” was to face a bigger question than exactly where he had been in the blurring of fantasy and reality. It was to wonder how a woman can ever be sure she really knows a guy.