What is wrong with this picture? Detectives busted fellow cop Gilberto Valle a few months ago for planning to kidnap, torture and roast a number of women including his own wife prior to consuming them. The trial is underway now, and while the seized online messages Valle wrote are beyond gross, his lawyers are saying, Where’s the evidence of a crime? What concrete actions did he take in furtherance of his scheme that would take this out of the realm of private speech?
No one has asked, as far as I can tell, what seems an obvious question: why did the cops not engage with Valle and get him to take an active step so that they could demonstrate intent? After all, that’s exactly what they do with terrorist suspects whom the FBI frequently encourages, conspires with and provides aid to so that the bomb or assassination or whatever plots can go forward. Then they record everything, bust the moron, and slap a 40-year sentence on him.
How hard would it have been to enter the cannibal-porn Web sites, engage with Valle and offer to help? How long would it have taken them to snare the guy in even a single, simple action, like agreeing to meet on a park bench to discuss the plans further or buying some equipment for the crime? Given the heinous nature of these plans and the thousands of participants on the disturbing sites, why not do the public a service by nailing this creep and warning off others?
Here’s the New York magazine blog citing other news reports on testimony about the police procedures:
Baum [Valle’s lawyer] asked the agent if Valle actually owned items discussed in the chats, like an oversized suitcase for transporting his victims, a secluded house upstate, or a rope-and-pulley system in his basement. The answer to each question was no. Baum also noted that the FBI didn’t conduct surveillance on Valle in the weeks after his wife contacted the agency, and they never checked his trunk for DNA, though he’d talked about putting a body in the trunk of his car.
No surveillance? Are we kidding? So reassuring for the woman trying to avoid becoming this guy’s lunch.
Jury service in this case would be particularly difficult if one is at all concerned about tossing people in prison for the crime of saying things, despicable as they may be. If our bloated police agencies are so monomaniacal that they can’t figure out how to apply their techniques to real social threats, WTF good are they?