Dubbed “The Cannibal Cop,” former NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was convicted of conspiring to kidnap and eat women in March 2013. Valle had argued it was all a fantasy, but the prosecution’s narrative convinced jurors otherwise. His story made headlines not only for its chilling details, but also because of its landmark decision regarding a man many consider “patient zero” in a growing thought-police trend across the nation.
Featuring unprecedented, intimate interviews with Valle and his family, as well as insights from lawyers, journalists, psychological professionals and criminal experts, THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP explores this complicated case, asking if someone can be found guilty for his or her most dangerous thoughts.
THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP includes unique visual and video elements, including courtroom sketches, online chats between Valle and his alleged “co-conspirators,” home movies from Valle’s youth and intimate vérité footage of Valle while sequestered in his mother’s home under house arrest.
In 2012, Gilberto Valle was accused of conspiracy to kidnap and eat a number of females after his wife discovered his plans, which were revealed by his online activities, including postings on the website DarkFetishNet.com (which has approximately 60,000 users). Valle was subsequently convicted of conspiracy and “unauthorized use of law enforcement databases” to gather information about his alleged targets.
THOUGHT CRIMES explores all sides of Valle’s shocking story while questioning the ethics of thought policing. In addition to his family and members of his legal team, including Julia Gatto, the film features experts in the field of law, such as Alan Dershowitz and Erin Murphy (NYU School of Law); journalists who covered the story for Slate and New York Magazine; and psychological experts Chris Kraft (John Hopkins University), Dr. Michael Welner (The Forensic Panel) and Dr. David Greenfield (Center for Internet and Technology Addiction), who provide insight into a vast and largely unregulated world.
After Valle had spent nearly two years behind bars, his jury conviction was overturned by Judge Gardephe, who had chaired the trial, in a stunning reversal. The judge explained, “The highly unusual facts of this case reflect the Internet age in which we live…Because the government did not offer sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable juror to distinguish between Valle's alleged real chats...and his conceded fantasy chats with others, the jury's verdict on count one cannot stand.”
THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP is the feature documentary debut of Erin Lee Carr, who has explored the intersection between crime and technology as video producer for VICE and The Verge. Her 2013 short film “Click. Print. Gun: The Inside Story of the 3-D Printed Gun Movement” received more than one million views within 24 hours of its posting on VICE’s Motherboard YouTube channel, and won her a 2014 Webby Award. THOUGHT CRIMES producer Andrew Rossi also produced and directed the Emmy®-nominated “Page One: Inside the New York Times.”
THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP is directed and produced by Erin Lee Carr; producer, Andrew Rossi; editor, Andrew Coffman; director of photography, Bryan Sarkinen; original music by Ian Hultquist. For HBO: supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.