The Cannibal Cop may end up being saved by his own sick and shameful words.
For the first two and a half days of the trial in Manhattan federal court, the prosecution sought to use NYPD officer Gilberto Valle’s online chats and emails about kidnapping, raping, torturing, cooking, and eating actual women to prove that he had ventured from fantasy into a conspiracy to make it a reality.
The prosecution’s effort to use the 28-year-old Valle’s words against him culminated Wednesday morning in rookie FBI agent Corey Walsh reading aloud to the courtroom the cop’s online descriptions to fellow sickos of the horrors he wanted to inflict upon his wife and another woman, among numerous others.
But then, after the lunch break, defense lawyer Robert Baum began a devastating cross-examination that may well lead to Valle walking free despite the sickness of his thoughts.
Baum began by referring back to the start of Walsh’s testimony the previous day, when the agent said that in searching Valle’s laptop and desktop computers, the FBI had found online dealings with two dozen people who shared his creepy interests. Walsh had testified that the FBI zeroed in on three individuals where Valle was deemed to have actual intent, dismissing the other 21 as mere fantasy.
Under Baum’s questioning, Walsh now reported that as many as 10 FBI agents and two federal prosecutors had been involved in making these judgments. Walsh said that the criteria in deciding which were actual threats included the mention of real names and specific times and places. Baum asked whether these criteria also fit some of the chats deemed to be just role-playing.
“You’re telling the judge that some chats were fantasy and some—even though they involved some of the same elements—were real,” Baum thundered.
Baum was not asking, he was telling, and he was doing so aggressively. Judge Paul Gardephe sustained the prosecution’s objection. A clearly rattled Walsh showed his inexperience as he began to answer anyway before being hushed from the bench.
Baum asked if any of the women in the case had been actually kidnapped or tortured or raped or cooked.
“Thankfully no,” Walsh said.
Baum inquired about whether Valle had ever actually met or even spoken on the phone with any of those he chatted with online.
“To my knowledge, he never met anyone, no,” Walsh said. “I was not aware of any phone contact, no, sir.”
Walsh further acknowledged that the FBI had not found any actual chloroform such as Valle had spoken of using. Baum asked about ropes such as Valle said would be used to tie up victims.
“We did not recover any ropes, no,” Walsh acknowledged.
“Did you find an oven large enough to cook a woman in Mr. Valle’s apartment?” Baum then inquired.
“That’s debatable,” Walsh said. “Depends on the size of the woman.”
“Did the FBI seize [Valle’s] oven as evidence?” Baum asked.
“No,” Walsh said.
Baum further inquired about whether the FBI had determined if Valle had a house in upstate New York such as he had described to his purported co-conspirators as an ideal place to cook a woman on an outsize rotisserie.
“We’re not aware of any house Mr. Valle had in upstate New York,” Walsh said.
Valle also had spoken of taking pictures of his victims and of hustling them away in a van. Walsh acknowledged that a camera recovered form Valle’s apartment had not contained any photos of women involved in the case and that Valle did not seem to own a van. Baum asked if the FBI had kept the supposedly dangerous Valle under surveillance during the month between the start of the investigation and the arrest.
“We did not, sir,” Walsh said.
All that was bad enough for the prosecution’s case. Baum began the serious damage when he moved on to number of the chats that the FBI had dismissed as fantasy. The words appeared on the various monitors in the courtroom, including the flat-screen set before Valle at the defense table, eerily like when they had first appeared before him during the actual chats. The first one involved a screen buddy who asked Valle if he actually sold women into slavery and death.
“No, I’m just talking fantasy,” Valle replied. “No matter what I ask, it’s make-believe.”
Valle added, “I just have a need in my mind.”
“Can you imagine branding a slave?” the pal asked.
“Yeah, I can,” Valle said.
“But not for real?”
Baum continued on to a fantasy chat in which Valle had spoken of selling actual women for particular prices. Baum asked Walsh if that was very much like one of the supposedly real chats.
“Yes, sir,” Walsh said.
“But this is a fantasy chat, isn’t it?” Baum asked.
“Yes sir,” Walsh said.
Baum cited another fantasy chat and another and another where Valle had used much the same words as in the supposedly real ones.
“Similar?” Baum asked.
“Similar, yes,” Walsh admitted.
Baum brought onto the screens a February 27, 2012, fantasy chat in which Valle had said, “Some waterboarding will be in order.” Baum asked if Valle had not said much the same thing in a supposedly real chat.
“I don’t recall,” Walsh said.
Baum summoned onto the screens something Valle had said in a supposedly real chat on September 8, 2011.
“Might waterboard her, too.”
Talk of waterboarding caused the jury to go visibly more alert after being numbed by the seemingly endless talk of men doing horrible things to women. And the dates of the two chats likely brought a lurch to anyone who was figuring that Valle had progressed from fantasy into planning to really do it. The real chat had come five months before, involving the same actual woman.
“And here she is in a fantasy chat in February of 2012. Is that correct?” Baum asked.
“It appears so, sir,” Walsh said, surely knowing how unlikely it sounded that reality had led to fantasy.
Baum kept hitting Walsh with other fantasy chats that were remarkably like the ones that had Valle in the defendant’s chair.
“Similar, sir,” Walsh kept having to say.
Baum moved on to still another chat, where a cyber-perv asked how many women he had actually victimized.
“None for real,” Valle said. “Never for real.”
Valle added, “”But, it’s fun to chat and push the envelope.”
The fellow pervert asked if he would do it if he had the chance.
“I don’t think so,” Valle said. “If I were absolutely 100 percent sure to get away with it, I would think about it.”
Walsh testified that he remained certain that Valle also had made actual plans. An observer had to wonder why the FBI had not used an online undercover agent, as it routinely does in pedophile cases, to lure the suspect into an overt act such as showing up to victimize who he imagines to be a minor.
The prosecution’s one hope seems to be convincing a jury that Valle was committing the overt act necessary for a conspiracy charge when he went he went into a police computer looking for information on victims. That, or when he asked for one woman’s address to send her a police union card that might come in handy if she got pulled over. The prosecution would have the jury believe that Valle’s real intent was to find out where she lived in order to abduct her.
As things stood Wednesday, some of Valle’s words to a fellow perv that appeared on the screen as a defense exhibit might as well have been addressed directly to the jury.
“If you were wondering, it’s all fantasy. I just enjoy pushing the envelope a bit.”
Even if he is found not have done nothing actually criminal, even if the Cannibal Cop proves to be just the Creep Cop, there is no disputing that he contributed to a hatred of women that does result in horrific violence.
If he had not been bent on committing horrors, he was cheering them on.