So-called “Cannibal Cop” Gilberto Valle seems to be having a weird couple of days: on Monday, the documentary about his life, Thought Crimes, premiered on HBO. On Tuesday, his case was debated at an appeals court panel, where he was repeatedly compared to a leprechaun by the people who have the power to send him back to prison for the rest of his life.
Ex-NYPD officer Valle was convicted in 2013 of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder with the prosecution using forum posts and Google searches as evidence. His conviction was overturned in 2014 by a judge who wrote, “The evidentiary record is such that it is more likely than not the case that all of Valle’s Internet communications about kidnapping are fantasy role-play,” in his decision. Tuesday’s hearing in Manhattan’s federal appeals court was a debate over whether Valle’s conviction should be reinstated, which prosecutors want — but of which appeals court judges sound wary. According to the New York Post, Judge Barrington Parker was skeptical of how fantasies about committing crimes can be prosecutable as criminal acts, rhetorically asking if drug dealers could be arrested if they were heard on a wiretap orchestrating a shipment of cocaine “from the moon by leprechauns” that was then going to be dropped to the ground by a “bald eagle.”
The prosecution disagreed with this characterization. “If Valle said, ‘I’m going to kidnap a leprechaun from a movie,’ we wouldn’t be here,” argued assistant US attorney Justin Anderson. “But he said he was going to kidnap Kimberly [Sauer], a real person.”
The panel of judges reserved decision on Tuesday.