Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When is Fantasizing a Crime?

Gilberto Valle is on trial this week for conspiracy. The evidence against him all comes from emails and postings to Internet chat groups, where he laid out in detail plans to torture, rape, kill, and eat women, including his own wife. The prosecution says these were actual plans that Valle intended to carry out.
“You are going to see in these conversations that Mr. Valle is engaging in detailed strategic discussions about real women that he has identified,” Mr. Jackson said. He cited “one conversation where Mr. Valle discusses a specific real woman, a specific real woman that he knew, and discussing the logistics of fitting her into an oven.”
As for the defense:
Officer Valle’s lawyer, said in her opening statement that if the jurors had been scared by what the prosecution had described, “who could blame you?” The allegations were shocking and gruesome, she said, “the stuff that horror movies are made of. They share something else in common with horror movies,” she added. “It’s pure fiction. It’s pretend. It’s scary make-believe.”

Ms. Gatto suggested that the stakes for Officer Valle, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, went far beyond his case. She said cases like his test “bedrock principles, the freedom to think, the freedom to say, the freedom to write even the darkest thoughts from our human imagination.”
I have to say that I can't decide what to make of this. On the one hand I am very disturbed by the whole notion of thought crimes, and I think that in our approach to child pornography we are descending into inquisition territory. On the other, who is going to object to some kind of punishment for a man whose idea of a good time is to chat with his buddies about exactly how to kill and cook his wife?

UPDATE: Valle was convicted on almost all the counts. The jury deliberated for nearly four days.

1 comment:

pootrsox said...

I find this man's fantasy life deeply repulsive.

However, absent any evidence beyond chat rooms and emails-- that is, evidence of meetings, of purchasing necessary imprisonment and dissection tools, etc-- I see no crime here.

Lock him up for fantasizing about killing and eating his wife, and you've now created case law for locking up authors of slash fiction, creators of violent video games, etc etc etc.