One of the arguments against Valle is the specificity he used in his communication.
"This is someone who hasn't just idly talked about cannibalism, but he's named specific people," DeMarco said.
Further complicating the "I was just pretending" defense is the Internet.
"The Internet allows people who have these niche interests to find each other in ways that are efficient, global, and, if you want, anonymous," DeMarco said. "It enables people with disparate interests -- whether it be stamp collecting or cannibalism -- to find each other. And that can validate their interest, so they don't feel alone or odd or unusual."
That validation can lead to encouragement, DeMarco said, so that someone who was initially only mildly interested in stamp collecting, for example, could form a club. And when the subject is something society disapproves of, it can encourage someone to cross certain lines they might not have otherwise.
"The very probing question is, What is the difference between fantasy and what's blameworthy?" Asner said. "At bottom, it's a moral judgment. Oftentimes, that is for the jury to figure out."