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Federal law at issue in former officer's appeal of cybercrime conviction

Maryland readers may remember the story of Gilberto Valle, the former New York Police Officer who was tried for kidnapping conspiracy after it was discovered that he had participated in online chat discussions about abducting, abusing and eating women and used a work computer to search for information on a woman he had known since high school. The charges earned Valle the nickname "cannibal cop."  

Valle was convicted of kidnapping conspiracy in 2013 after prosecutors successfully convinced a jury he had been planning real life abductions with his chat partners on a chat room dedicated to fetishes and fantasies. That conviction was overturned by the judge on the grounds that Valle's actions constituted "fantasy role-play" rather than criminal conspiracy. The government has appealed that decision. 

Until recently, the cybercrime element of the case received less attention than the conspiracy element, even though the former involves interesting issues concerning the scope of federal law.  Although prosecutors were able to secure a conviction against Valle under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the case is not over as Valle has appealed the conviction.

In Valle's case, the issue seems to be whether he should have been convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, given that he had legitimate access to the database. Under the law, prosecutors can target individuals who exceed the authorized use of a computer network, but exactly what this means is not settled.

In future posts, we'll take a look a brief look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and what the Department of Justice is proposing to make it easier to pursue cases under the law.

Sources:

Wxow.com, "Justice Department looks to sharpen computer crime law," Eric Tucker, September 2015.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, "United States v. Gilberto Valle, Accessed Sept. 16, 2015.

New York Times, "Gilberto Valle, Ex-New York Police Officer, Talks About His Cannibalism Fantasies in Film," Benjamin Weiser, April 16, 2015. 

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