The trial for former NYPD officer Michael Valva and his ex-fiancee Angela Pollina, accused of killing the cop’s 8-year-old son Thomas Valva, has been postponed until Jan. 10.
Jury selection in the case was scheduled for Oct. 12, but Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice William Condon said during a hearing in Riverhead on Monday that the delay was necessary because of stricter coronavirus pandemic protocols spurred by the delta variant.
Condon had ruled earlier this month that Valva and Angela Pollina be tried together but that their fates would be decided by two separate juries. That would require two court officer staffs, two clerks and possibly two stenographers, according to Condon, who said proceeding in that way while while adhering to mask mandates and other COVID requirements is "not feasible."
Condon also expressed fears that some court personnel will resign rather than comply with a state vaccine mandate, leaving courts understaffed. Court employees are required to get the first shot by Sept. 27 or could possibly lose their jobs.
Condon told prosecutors and defense attorneys that the trial could begin sooner than January if the number of COVID-19 cases eases and the state lifts coronavirus protocols.
John LoTurco of Garden City, one of Valva’s lawyers, and Austin Manghan of Riverhead, who represents Pollina, said their clients have agreed to the delay. LoTurco and Manghan declined comment after Monday’s hearing.
Valva and Pollina have both pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in the hypothermia death of Thomas Valva and the alleged abuse of his brother Anthony, then 10. Prosecutors have alleged that Thomas died Jan. 17, 2020, after the defendants forced him to sleep in their Center Moriches unheated garage in frigid temperatures.
Valva did not appear at the hearing because his Suffolk County jail cell mate has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and may have exposed the former officer to the virus, Condon said.
Pollina attended the hearing but did not speak.
The judge ruled in August that key video evidence and other physical evidence would be admissible at the trial.
Defense attorneys for Valva and Pollina had argued during a pretrial hearing in May that the Nest camera and Ring door bell video, as well as a bag containing Thomas' clothing, was obtained by police illegally and should be suppressed.
The defense also said police failed to get permission from either Valva or Pollina to search the home and didn't get a warrant beforehand. Prosecutors denied those claims.