“We don’t convict people because they’re bitches.”
That’s the argument the defense attorney for Angela Pollina – who forced her ex-fiancé’s 8-year-old son into a frigid garage the night before he died – made to jurors Thursday in a jaw-dropping conclusion to his client’s Suffolk County murder trial.
But the legal Hail Mary, hoisted aloft by attorney Matthew Tuohy during his summation, was quickly swatted down by Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly, who said Pollina’s wanton and cruel abuse of little Thomas Valva had directly led to the boy’s hypothermia death.
“She acknowledged it was evil – and it was,” Kelly said. “She tortured them! Screamed at them! She forced him out into the cold! Thomas was tortured and died for the sin of being autistic.”
Jurors went into deliberations immediately after the climactic ending, which left several onlookers weeping in the gallery. Their work is set to continue on Friday.
The emotional fireworks were a fitting end to Pollina’s two-week trial.
When proceedings began, prosecutors said Pollina was every bit as guilty in the death of Thomas as his own father, disgraced ex-NYPD cop Michael Valva, who was convicted of the murder in November and sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars the following month.
The trial has not gone well for the defense, especially as Pollina herself took the stand this week — and made jurors gasp when she said it was “a little chilly,” but that she was “comfortable,” on the morning Thomas froze to death in 2020.
A witness testified earlier that Pollina would curse and scream at the boy, and the couple would mock him for his autism.
The prosecution also showed videos of Thomas and his older brother Anthony, then 10, shivering on the cement garage floor because Pollina had demanded weeks earlier that her then-beau remove any creature comforts from the area.
Thomas died on Jan. 17, 2020, at Long Island Community Hospital.
But a paramedic said during Valva’s trial that the abused child was likely already dead when they arrived – he’d been locked in a garage for 16 hours in frigid temperatures, then hosed off in the 21 degree cold before he fell and hit his head.
In his closing arguments Thursday, Tuohy said Pollina’s demand that the boys live in the garage was no big deal.
“Who cares!” Tuohy told jurors. “It was several months before. Yeah, she was a bad person before … but not on that day. She wanted the boys exiled to the garage. She got up and owned it, she said … it was wrong.”
“But she told you, but I didn’t kill him,’” Tuohy continued, before placing the blame on her ex-fiancé.
“It’s all Michael Valva!” he charged. “She could be mean, she wanted the boys exiled to the garage but she didn’t kill him. She’s got no part of that. That is all the father … There’s no crime for being a bitch!”
Kelly, the district attorney, said Pollina was clearly to blame.
“It was because of her!” Kelly said. “Her cruel and unusual punishment for the crime of being a little boy with autism. That caused Thomas to die … You heard the tapes. Who do you think is really running that household? Who do you think is in charge of those children?”
Thomas had no body fat, a chronic kidney infection from holding in his urine, sunken hips and alopecia, Kelly said. His body temperature had fallen to nearly 76 degrees. And texts and recordings illustrated that neither Valva nor Pollina cared.
“By her words, by her actions, she stayed on the play!” Kelly said. “That was the only reason those children were in the garage. He was not allowed in the house, not allowed to use a bathroom. That was all because of this defendant.”
Pollina has been charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment. She faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
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