Michael Van Hise, Christopher Asch, and Richard Meltz are "Cannibal Cop Cohorts" charged in a conspiracy to kidnap with Gil.
The recently concluded trial of Michael Van Hise and Christopher Asch clearly showed that the above three individuals were never charged in a conspiracy with Gil. Unfortunately, numerous media outlets reported otherwise, falsely linking Gil with these men who exchanged phone numbers, met in person, and met with undercover FBI agents as part of numerous covert operations; things that Gil undisputedly never did with his "co-conspirators." Indeed, Judge Gardephe explained to the jury before deliberating the Van Hise/Asch verdict that:
"During trial, there have been references to Gilberto Valle. There is no allegation or charge in this case that either Mr. Van Hise or Mr. Asch conspired to commit, or did commit, any crime with Mr. Valle. Mr. Valle is not alleged to be one of the defendants' co-conspirators." (Page 1508, lines 8-13 of the Van Hise/Asch trial transcript)
Once again, the media failed to correct the facts. It is true that Gil does have alleged co-conspirators. Not only did Gil not meet any of these people, but they never exchanged basic pedigree information such as names, ages, phone numbers, addresses, or occupations. They were only known to each other through their internet screen names. If that is not ridiculous enough, Gil's two alleged co-conspirators live in England and Pakistan.
Gil tapped into a federal database while he was at work to run the names of women he was targeting to find out where they live.
Gil never "hacked" or "tapped into" any computer. He had an NYPD-issued log in and password for the computer he used. Relating to the charged conspiracy, Gil ran the name of only one woman. During trial, the woman testified that she had asked Gil to check into a parking ticket for her. Additionally, the woman testified that she had been good friends with Gil for the past 12 years and that he already knew where she lived. In other words, Gil never needed the NYPD computer to find out where this woman lived. True, the computer is not to be used by police officers for personal reasons, but Gil logged in properly and Congress clearly states that an action similar to Gil's does not constitute a federal crime:
"The Committee was concerned that a Federal computer crime statute not be so broad as to create a risk that government employees and others who are authorized to use a Federal Government computer would face prosecution for acts of computer access and use that, while, technically wrong, should not rise to the level of criminal conduct."
"It is not difficult to envision an employee or other individual who, while authorized to use a particular computer in one department, briefly exceeds his authorized access and peruses data belonging to the department that he is not supposed to look at. This is especially true where the department in question lacks a clear method of delineating which individuals are authorized to access certain of its data. The Committee believes that administrative sanctions are more appropriate than criminal punishment in such a case. The Committee wishes to avoid the danger that every time an employee exceeds his authorized access to his department's computers -- no matter how slightly -- he could be prosecuted under this subsection." (Congressional Committee report amending the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986)
Furthermore, the NYPD Patrol Guide prohibits officers from accessing a law enforcement database for improper purposes. Accordingly, the NYPD did have the ability to impose "administrative sanctions" for Gil's computer use.
"The sole purpose of [Gil's] trip to Maryland was to conduct surveillance."
-Assistant US Attorney Hadassa Waxman in her closing argument, March 6, 2013.
The trial evidence directly refutes this claim in so many ways that it is difficult to decide where to begin. The government argued throughout the case that a July 2012 trip to Maryland, during which he had brunch with a supposed victim, was a clear overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Gil graduated from the University of Maryland, and as two government witnesses correctly testified, he would make a trip to Maryland 4 to 5 times a year. He would try to attend at least one University of Maryland football game every season. In July 2012, Gil took his wife and daughter down to Maryland for a weekend and saw several of his old college friends. On that Sunday, Gil had an hour long brunch with a woman who was an alleged kidnapping target. His wife and daughter were also at the brunch.
Upon learning of Gil's upcoming trip to Maryland, the woman reached out to Gil via text message and suggested, "Lunch Sunday?" After Gil agreed, the woman then picked the time and restaurant where they were to meet. At trial, the woman testified that she saw nothing unusual about Gil traveling to Maryland and that the brunch was pleasant. During the brunch, the woman noted that Gil was good with the baby, and he and his wife appeared to have a good relationship. Nothing unusual happened at the brunch.
The woman also testified that she and Gil had been good friends for 10 years and they would communicate frequently throughout the years after they had graduated from Maryland. It was commonplace for them to get together whenever Gil was in town. Gil also knew from their friendship where she lived and worked. On that July weekend, Gil and his family stayed in a hotel in a different city from where the woman lives.
In a fantasy chat with Gil's alleged co-conspirator from England, Gil had mentioned that he was going to see this woman on that upcoming weekend. The two never talk about how to use that meeting or that weekend to engage in surveillance, and after that weekend the two do not talk about that woman again. They fantasize and role-play about other women.
It is not a crime to engage in fantasy role play with strangers on the internet, nor is it a crime for these fantasies to be unusual or even disgusting. Despite what you may have heard or been told, it is not enough to convict someone for conspiracy based on their thoughts. Overt actions need to be taken, and there needs to be an intent for both parties to committ a crime. Acting these fantasies out on a fetish role-play web site amidst tens of thousands of other law-abiding users from all over the world is not an overt act. Taking your family to a brunch that you were invited to is not an overt action to further a conspiracy, nor is giving out PBA cards to old friends from high school. Unfortunately, the jury was unable to see past the disturbing imagery and fantasy role-play, and thus they convicted Gil. He's now facing life in prison. Think about that for a moment.
Fortunately, the legal battle is not over. The case is now in the hands of Judge Paul Gardephe. The defense team has filed three motions (see below), two to overturn the convictions, and the other to initiate a new trial. Noted criminologist Park Dietz, Ph.D, who has testified for the government in major cases (Jeffrey Dahmer, Amanda Yates and others) has also submitted paperwork in support of Gil. We encourage you to read these motions for yourself to get a better understanding of the injustice that has taken place. We also encourage you to sign up to our forums to discuss the case, ask questions and become better informed. We are hopeful that he will apply the law, and that Gil will be freed. Remember - if Gil was convicted for his thoughts, you or someone you love can be too.
Lastly, we would like to thank those who have continued to support Gil during this difficult time. We would also like to acknowledge the tremendous effort that the members of Gil's defense team (Julia Gatto, Alex Katz, Robert Baum, Edward Zas, Christopher Flood, John Hughes and others) have put forth. We would also like to thank Fordham Law Professor James Cohen and his students for all of the wonderful work they have done on the post-trial motions.