Jury finds New York 'cannibal cop' guilty

NEW YORK (AFP) - New York's so-called "cannibal cop" was found guilty Tuesday of plotting to kidnap the young women he had fantasized about eating, after four days of jury deliberations in a US federal court.

Gilberto Valle, 28, faces a possible life sentence. The case has riveted the Big Apple tabloid media and raised questions about freedom of speech. No women were harmed, and Valle's defense argued he merely had disturbing fantasies.

"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," US Attorney Preet Bharara said.

"The Internet is a forum for the free exchange of ideas, but it does not confer immunity for plotting crimes and taking steps to carry out those crimes."

Valle visited websites dedicated to extreme sexual fantasies, and shared with other death porn enthusiasts his plans to abduct women, including his wife, whom he would then torture, kill and eat.

During the trial, which opened on February 25, prosecutors argued that Valle - a six-year veteran of the New York Police Department - did more than just fantasize.

"Officer Valle crossed the line. He left the world of fantasy. He entered the world of reality and, thankfully, he was stopped before he could act," Assistant US Attorney Hadassa Waxman said.

An FBI agent testified that he found hundreds of downloaded pages on Valle's computer about rape, torture and cannibalism.

Shocking images from fetish websites were shown to the jury.

"The evidence in this case is overwhelming," US Attorney Randall Jackson told the jury, almost shouting at times. "He has no right at this point to ask you to bail him out." But the officer's attorney Julia Gatto said her client was guilty of nothing more than having disturbing thoughts.

"We don't convict human beings just because of ugly thoughts," she said last week in her closing arguments.

"They want you to convict, not because there's proof, but because you won't like the way his mind works," Gatto added, describing Valle as a "nice, non-violent man." Jackson said however: "The limits of free speech are what will actually place real people in harm."

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