‘Cannibal Cop’ Doc Questions Line Between Fantasy and Murder
In 2012, the FBI arrested Gilberto Valle and accused the 28-year-old NYPD officer of plotting to abduct, rape, murder and eat more than 100 women. Valle, who the media dubbed the “Cannibal Cop,” was convicted the following year of kidnapping conspiracy, based mainly on chat room discussions on a torture fetish website. He never denied that his thoughts were gruesome and horrendous (“She goes into the oven whole. Live cooking for my entertainment,” the former policeman wrote in one of his tamer chats), but always maintained that they were only thoughts to be fantasized about and not acted on.
A federal judge agreed, noting that no one was actually kidnapped and no “non-Internet-based steps” were taken to commit a crime, and overturned the conviction. Valle never testified at the trials, but he does appear in Erin Lee Carr’s gripping, thought-provoking HBO documentary Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop. The film examines the line between criminal thought and action, dissecting both the case itself and the wider implications of convicting a person based on their future acts.
Despite the judge’s order, Valle is not free yet. An appeal to restore the original conviction — which may earn him a life sentence — is set to begin on May 12th, one day after Thought Crimes’ premiere on the premium cable channel. Carr spoke to Rolling Stone about unspeakable thoughts, revealing juror confessions and how to inject humor in the darkest of subjects.
How did you first get involved in the case?
Like many other people, I came to the case through the tabloids and it seemed like my worst fear realized: A police officer was having these thoughts about women. I started looking at what it all meant: Was there physical evidence? Was there stalking? I realized that it was a lot more gray than the story was made out to be. I started talking on the phone with Gil and first visited him with his parents in January 2014 in prison.
What was the tone of the first in-person conversation?
It was incredibly nerve-racking on both sides. The media attention had died down about the case and Gil did not testify during the trial, so he wanted to get his side of the story out. He felt like he had a lot of things to say.