NEW YORK (WABC) -- A federal judge has overturned the conviction of the so-called cannibal cop, ruling there was not sufficient evidence to support the verdict.
NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was found guilty in March of 2013 in the graphic plot to kidnap, torture and eat women.
"The judge's well-reasoned decision validates what we have said since the beginning: There was no crime," defense attorney Julia Gatto said. "Gil Valle is innocent of any conspiracy. Gil is guilty of nothing more than having unconventional thoughts."
The jury ruled that Valle, 29, conspired to kill and eat women he knew, including his wife, to dine on their "girl meat" - in a macabre case that subjected jurors to often gory evidence and asked them to separate fantasy from reality.
In a much different world, the internet based darkfetishnet.com, is where prosecutors claim Valle shared bizarre chats with three co-conspirators and plotting to kidnap, torture, kill and then cannibalize women.
Five were potential targets, including Valle's wife Kathleen Managan, who testified against her husband.
The U.S. Attorney, defending the prosecution, 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's attorneys tried to convince the jury that his actions were all a fantasy, "a sick, twisted, ugly fantasy" of role playing and that the talk was not meant to be carried out.
The jury, which deliberated for just over two days, heard Valle's potential victims testify that they were trading innocent-sounding emails and texts with him, unaware he was supposedly scheming to make meals out of them. The government also sought to drive home the point that Valle was more of a threat because he was a police officer.
Valle faced life in prison, but he had not yet been sentenced.
In his 118-page opinion, first reported by The New York Times, the judge wrote that "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."
The judge planned a hearing Tuesday morning on the status of the case. Valle has been jailed since his arrest in 2012.
"Gil Valle has been in jail for 18 long months, 7 months in solitary confinement, for a crime he absolutely didn't commit," Gatto said. "We're relieved he will be free and incredibly grateful to Judge Gardephe for upholding the awesome and fundamental legal principles at stake here, including our core freedom to be able to think what we want free of government intrusion."
The judge upheld Valle's conviction on a charge of illegally gaining access to the law enforcement database, which carried a maximum sentence of one year. Valle was fired after his conviction.
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