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Crime Your Rights Online

Judge Frees "Cannibal Cop" Who Shared His Fantasies Online 185

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes The story is classic: Boy meets Girl. Boy likes Girl. Boy goes on the internet and writes about his fantasies that involve killing and eating Girl. Boy goes to jail. In this case, the man in question, NYC police officer Gilberto Valle, didn't act on his fantasies — he just shared them in a like-minded internet forum. Yesterday, Valle was released from jail after a judge overturned his conviction on appeal. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe wrote that Valle was "guilty of nothing more than very unconventional thoughts... We don't put people in jail for their thoughts. We are not the thought police and the court system is not the deputy of the thought police." The judge concluded that there was insufficient evidence, since "this is a conspiracy that existed solely in cyberspace" and "no reasonable juror could have found that Valle actually intended to kidnap a woman... the point of the chats was mutual fantasizing about committing acts of sexual violence on certain women." (A New York magazine article covered the details of the case and the implications of the original conviction earlier this year.)
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Judge Frees "Cannibal Cop" Who Shared His Fantasies Online

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  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:29PM (#47377337) Homepage Journal

    The conservative talk radio stuff was yammering about that when it happened. G. Gordon Liddy was praising one of the victims, a man who had predicted hijacked airplanes hitting the World Trade center [wikipedia.org] and insisted on either leaving or training for evacuation without the aid of useless first-responders. This is a man who got all of his people out of Tower 2, then went back in to find anyone else that might be in there. The damn thing collapsed with him in it.

    Then, conservative politicians pop up talking about how nobody ever thought of that shit.

    So, conservative talk show host praises conservative office manager for predicting 9/11 as the most likely form of terrorist attack in 1995. Conservative politicians scream that nobody ever thought of that form of terrorist attack before. Face palms all around.

  • Actually he _was_ convicted of misusing the DB (max sentence 12 months). He's been in jail for more than 18 months so at this point, he has served more than enough to satisfy the highest possible sentence.

    As a side note, the most disturbing part of this case to me, was Valle's illegal use of the DB to find out information about people for purely personal reasons. I'm sort of shocked that such a crime carries a max 12 month sentence. What that says to me is that law enforcement agencies and the governments that set them up, don't really care how their own misuse government power. Nor does the media for the most part as demonstrated by the thousands of words spent on the prurient charms of this case, but in any article, there is at most a single sentence about the DB issue.

    Here's an example:

    Tabloid same as NY Times, you'll have to search the page for "database" to find that single sentence.:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07... [nytimes.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:00PM (#47377669)

    I would think the fantasizing, "I am going to have to use the database to find someone who fits these parameters" would be the fantasy, and actually using the database to find someone who meets the target requirements would be the overt act.

    Except that's not what happened, at least according to what I've read. He used the database not to FIND victims, but to look up personal information about women he already knew. It's still abuse of police power, and he should be punished for that (and was).

    The question is whether he ever appeared to use that information in any way that would further his supposed "conspiracy." And the actual evidence says that not only did he NOT use that information to plan attacks, but he deliberately kept that information to himself. He never shared any information from the databases with his supposed "co-conspirators," and in fact deliberately changed up personal details of the supposed "victims" (including mixing in false things with true) when he posted about his fantasies.

    If he were actually trying to use this information to plan an elaborate plot to kill people, why would he intentionally avoid sharing this (illegally-obtained) information with his "conspirators" and why would he feed them false information? On the other hand, if he was a generally law-abiding cop who felt guilty about his inappropriate access to personal data and actually wanted to be sure his "conspirators" never went too far, his behavior makes perfect sense.

    Furthermore, in terms of "overt acts," one needs to consider the history of all of these "plots." There were many, many "plots" hatched, dates mentioned, all sorts of details given, but there's no evidence that any of these actors in the "conspiracy" ever actually took actions in the real world to make any of these detailed plots possible. This would suggest that there was no intention to actually carry out most of these "plots," and the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove that some particular plot was ever actually serious and set in motion... since in context, it's clear the default was that the plots were fantasy.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @04:44PM (#47379593)

    The courts do and have sent people to jail for fantasies. It is called conspiracy.


    As this judge correctly pointed out, there is a difference between discussing fantasies and conspiracy. One is mere thoughts, or discussion of ideas. The other requires not just an agreement among parties to do something specific, in the Unites States almost always an "overt act" must be carried out to make it actual conspiracy.

    For example: two guys discuss for years that they want to rob the rich guy down the street. As long as they are just talking, they haven't broken any laws. They can plan all they want to. They can fantasize about using bombs, shotguns, pitchforks, or whatever the hell they please in order to do the job. But as soon as they meet in a parking lot to go do it, or one of them starts building one of the discussed bombs in his basement, they are guilty of conspiracy.

    The point is: in the U.S. you generally have freedom of speech and you can say pretty much whatever you want. But as soon as you ACT to carry out some crime you were discussing with someone, you are guilty of conspiracy. THAT is the difference between "thought crime" and actual crime.

    Wikipedia puts it this way:

    Under most U.S. laws, for a person to be convicted of conspiracy not only must he or she agree to commit a crime, but at least one of the conspirators must commit an overt act...

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!