US & Canada

NY policeman Gilberto Valle acquitted in cannibal plot

Julia Gatto (left) and Gilberto Valle (right) are seen in a courtroom drawing on 25 October 2012 Image copyright AP
Image caption Gilberto Valle (right) remains convicted of improperly accessing a law enforcement database

A federal judge in New York has overturned the conviction of a former police officer found guilty of plotting to murder his wife and cook and eat other women.

Judge Paul Gardephe found insufficient evidence to support the March 2013 conviction of Gilberto Valle.

His lawyer had argued Valle was only engaged in online role-playing fantasy on fetish websites.

Valle, dubbed the "cannibal cop" by US media, had faced life in prison.

Calling the case "extraordinary" in his opinion on Monday night, Judge Gardephe found the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Valle "entered into a genuine agreement to kidnap a woman, or that he specifically intended to commit a kidnapping".

Valle was released from jail on Tuesday.

Though he has now been acquitted of the more serious charge - conspiracy to kidnap - Valle remains convicted of improperly accessing a law enforcement database to look up the women's personal information. Following his trial he was sacked by the New York Police Department.

'Unusual and bizarre'

At his trial, prosecutors told how Valle visited a street that was home to a woman he had agreed to kidnap for $5,000 (£3,360) for a New Jersey man.

Valle also used the internet to research the best rope for tying up people and to learn which chemicals render a person unconscious.

Search terms found on his computer included "human flesh" and "white slavery".

During the trial, Valle's estranged wife, Kathleen Mangan, testified against him.

She said she had found "thousands of emails" on her laptop, which he had been using, detailing his plans to like-minded fetishists.

Ms Mangan said that in the emails, Valle had discussed how two other women would be "raped in front of each other to heighten their fears", and another would be roasted alive over a fire.

Following the conviction, Valle's lawyer, Julia Gatto, said the jury had focused on his "unusual and bizarre and frankly very ugly" thoughts, and not on the fact that no-one had been harmed.

On Tuesday, Ms Gatto said her client was "guilty of nothing more than having unconventional thoughts".

"The judge's well-reasoned decision validates what we have said since the beginning: There was no crime," she told US media. "Valle has been in jail for 18 long months, seven months in solitary confinement, for a crime he absolutely didn't commit."

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