Before I get into this discussion, I need to make it plain and clear that I don’t think I have a multiple-personality disorder. I also need to tell you that, as I grow older, I enjoy trying to see the multiple sides of things that puzzle me. One way I do that is to gather up as much information as I can find on a subject and take it to lunch with myself.
So one day last week myself and I sat down at a table-for-one and discussed the curious case of the “cannibal cop,” a trial that just ended with disgraced New York City policeman Gilberto Valle being found guilty of plotting to kidnap, cook, and eat a lot of women. Valle is now awaiting sentencing of up to life in prison.
Here is how the lunch-table conversation went with myself:
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ME: Man oh man, I sure am glad the courts just hammered that guy. Can you imagine anybody who would defile and murder another person? Torturing them and then, like some Hannibal Lecter, going out and getting a can of fava beans. That’s the most disgusting thing I believe I ever heard …
MYSELF: You are sadly becoming more and more a victim of too much Internet and a sensation-driven media. The fact of the matter is Gilberto Valle didn’t do anything wrong. He never hurt a soul – there is not a shred of evidence that he ever cooked or kidnapped anybody. Gottcha’ bozo – no smoking gun!
ME: Listen to me, loser. He had all of these horrible images on his computer of women being tortured. He used police computers and a federal database to track down women and he even belonged to a perverted website where creeps go to look at what are called “dark fetishes.” This guy is deeply deranged and needs to be locked away for good.
MYSELF: No … stick to the point. He never actually committed a crime against women or humanity. He might have thought about it. He was pretty messed up to be looking at sick pornography but are pictures of mutilated people illegal? Are we now a country that puts people in prison just because they have ugly thoughts? That’s a little scary because, buddy, you know some people like that.
ME: A jury found him guilty! He went to “chat rooms” on his computer to discuss how to eat another person. He looked up cooking “human meat” on Google and how to get chloroform to use when he kidnapped someone. You talk about a sicko! He may not get life when he is sentenced in June but he needs to be locked away for a long time.
MYSELF: I agree he is mentally ill but – calm down -- is that a crime? I thought we were more civilized than that. This guy didn’t break the law, other than to use the police databases. Where they nailed him was by showing he was “conspiring” to do bad things but a one-man conspiracy is a little vague, more especially when he didn’t go through on any of his plans.
ME: His wife, who is a pretty good judge of this moron, found the sick smut on his laptop and called the FBI because she was fearful of what would happen. I believe if that hadn’t happened, we never would have known the horror that was averted when Valle showed up in a woman’s neighborhood after a guy in New Jersey offered $5,000 to have her raped and killed. (The New Jersey man is still awaiting trial.)
MYSELF: But did he do anything in that neighborhood? No sir. Obviously I was not at the trial and perhaps there are many more facts than the news websites carried. I did see a NY Times article that asked very pointedly, “When does a virtual crime, contemplated in Internet chat rooms, become an actual crime?”
ME: Thank gosh we caught him in time. Can you imagine what we might have prevented at Sandy Hook Elementary if we had only seen the shooter’s computer and had been able to act on his thoughts before those school children were killed? In the case of the “cannibal cop,” we did exactly that.
MYSELF: It’s like the lawyer said, “People who use the Internet better be careful. It sets a dangerous precedent. Now … people can be prosecuted for their thoughts … and convicted, which is even sadder to think about."
ME: “This old world of ours is getting funnier by the day. Let’s think about something else.”
MYSELF: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”