NEW YORK (PIX11) - After so-called cannibal cop Gilberto Valle was convicted on charges of conspiracy to kidnap, rape, torture, cook and eat women -- including his wife -- three entities worked to get his conviction overturned. One, Valle's defense attorneys, insisted that the NYPD officer had only fantasized about the heinous crimes that a jury concluded he had conspired to commit.
Two, Fordham Law School professor James Cohen and his law students filed extensive paperwork in the case, seeking Valle's acquittal. Three, a website calling on authorities to free Gil Valle kept posting information seeking to right what its contributors felt was a miscarriage of justice. On Tuesday afternoon, all of their work came to fruition as Valle walked out of court a free man, after 21 months behind bars.
The grimace on Valle's face as he walked out of the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street appeared to be a combination of him choking back tears and reacting to having unhindered exposure to sunshine for the first time since his arrest in October of 2012.
He held his mother's hand as he walked down the courthouse steps toward a bank of microphones set up by local, national and international news outlets eager to hear the 30 year-old former NYPD officer speak in public for the first time since his ordeal began.
"I want to apologize to everyone who has been hurt, shocked and offended by my infantile actions,” Valle began as he faced dozens of cameras and reporters. He also thanked the many attorneys and law students who had worked hard in his defense.
He also thanked the guards and fellow inmates at the Metropolitan Corrections Center, or MCC, the federal lockup behind the courthouse where Judge Paul G. Gardephe had declared Valle's conspiracy to kidnap conviction overturned. "I've gotten along with them," Valle said, "I'll never forget them, I love them."
The six-year veteran cop actually spent seven months in solitary confinement in the MCC when he'd first arrived in the fall of 2012. Guards were concerned that other inmates might abuse Valle not only because he was an ex-cop (he'd been relieved of duty after his conviction), but also because of the extensive evidence made public in his criminal trial. It featured videos and still images of women who'd been abducted, tortured, sexually abused and prepared for cooking. All of the material sadistic pornographic material were fabricated by filmmakers, photographers and consenting actors. No actual crimes were committed.
As for the kidnapping, torture, cooking and eating of women that Valle planned and discussed with anonymous co-conspirators online, even though it was done in great detail, none of it was real. Valle had made up every aspect of his plots, with the exception of photographs of potential victims, many of whom he knew personally. One of them was his now-estranged wife, who'd turned him in to federal authorities. However, for all of the photographs Valle posted, he changed the names and all other personal information of the women whose images appeared online.
Despite that, the jury found him guilty, much to the shock and surprise of Valle's federally funded public defense team and his family. "I'm sure Mr. Valle was crying, I was crying, we were all crying," his lead defense attorney, Julia Gatto, said after the verdict was read last year.
By contrast, after Tuesday afternoon's acquittal, she said, "This is elation, this is complete vindication... because not only did we know our client was innocent, but we really believed in the rule of law."
"After 21 months, I just want to go home now," Valle said to the throng of dozens of reporters and photographers surrounding him and his family members and defense team as he left court.
He and his mother said that they would head to a her house in order to enjoy his favorite meal, but neither would say what that meal would be.
Valle was convicted in his criminal trial last year of illegally using a federal information database while on police duty. He has already served more than the maximum sentence for that crime, but he had not been formally sentenced, pending Judge Gardephe's ruling on the conspiracy charge.
The date of the formal sentencing for the other crime has not been determined. Valle was ordered to house detention with a GPS monitor bracelet until sentencing. He was also ordered to pay a $100,000 bond pending sentencing, and to have limited Internet use, and no contact with any of the people involved in his fantasy play.
Prosecutors indicated at court that they will appeal the judge's decision.