Thought Police? Cannibal Cop Guilty Despite Thought Defense

The New York police officer who was accused of an elaborate plot to track down and cannibalize women was found guilty on Tuesday, but his lawyer said the conviction is based only on some “very ugly thoughts,” the New York Times reported. The problem with the “ugly thoughts” defense is that many crimes are based on thoughts.

Nobody wants to think that they can be penalized for their thoughts.  In a perfect world people would be able to think what ever they want.  But realistically, it’s the thought behind a crime that that is often on trial, not just the crime itself.  That was the case for Officer Gilberto Valle.

There’s been a “thought police” debate going on for years now about ending the extra penalization for hate crimes as opposed to other, already illegal, violent acts.  Whether or not the thoughts behind the actual criminal behavior is racist, homophobic, bigoted or “ugly,” many have argued, the crime still looks the same: One person behing beaten, abused or taken advantage of bdy another person.  But the criminality is different.  And it is different because of the aggressor’s thoughts.

Criminality is also judged differently if an act was premeditated or made as a reflex.  Murder as a result of self defense is sentenced differently from murder as a crime of passion, and both carry lighter penalties than premeditated murder.  In all three cases the victim is no less a victim, but the thoughts of the aggressor determine the weight of the crime.

Valle was found guilty because the jury believed his thoughts had been gaining momentum and his behavior reflected a willingness to act on them.  Despite lamentation from defense attorney Julia L. Gatto, her client’s thoughts are exactly what this trial was always about and there’s a long list of precedents that weaken her defense.


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