A judge let the defense attorney withdraw from the case of Michael Valva, charged in the hypothermia death of his 8-year-old son Thomas. The judge ordered a new review to see if Valva qualifies for a free court-appointed attorney. Newsday reporter Cecilia Dowd has more. Credit: James Carbone; File Footage; Photo Credit: Justyna Zubko-Valva

A judge allowed an attorney appointed to represent Michael Valva, the NYPD officer charged in the hypothermia death of his 8-year-old son, to withdraw from the case Monday over a possible conflict of interest.

Robert Del Col of Bay Shore asked Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice William Condon if he could withdraw from the case during a hearing in Riverhead. Del Col said he recently remembered meeting Valva’s estranged wife, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and offering her legal advice after watching her struggle while representing herself in Nassau County matrimonial court in April.

The exchange was brief, Del Col said, but Condon agreed that it could give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“I would not want something like this to sabotage whatever result comes down the line,” Condon said.

Valva, 40, is charged with second-degree murder and endangering the welfare of a child in the death of his son Thomas Valva, a case that has sparked widespread outrage across Long Island, as well as several investigations.

Authorities said Thomas died of hypothermia last month after Valva and his fiancee, Angela Pollina, forced the boy and his older brother, Anthony, to sleep in an unheated garage at the couple’s home on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches on a frigid January night.

Valva and Pollina, who also is charged with second-degree murder and endangering the welfare of a child, pleaded not guilty to the charges at arraignment earlier this month.

Justyna Zubko-Valva, mother of Thomas Valva, is greeted by supporters...

Justyna Zubko-Valva, mother of Thomas Valva, is greeted by supporters at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday. Credit: James Carbone

Condon ordered Valva, who is being held without bail, to get an attorney and return to court on March 5.

Valva, wearing the same black T-shirt and jeans from when he was arrested last month, told Condon he did not have money to hire a private attorney. Condon ordered a review of Valva’s finances to see if he qualifies for a free court-appointed attorney.

Condon appointed Del Col to represent Valva at his arraignment after the 15-year NYPD veteran said he did not have the money to hire his own lawyer. Legal Aid officials said at the arraignment that Valva did not qualify for free counsel, but Condon said he wanted a new review because Valva’s finances had changed since his arrest.

Valva has been suspended without pay, NYPD officials have said.

The judge advised Valva to hire a lawyer, saying: “Any idea that you would represent yourself would be a fool’s errand.”

Valva countered that he didn’t want to act as his own legal counsel.

“I just don’t have the funds,” he told Condon.

Zubko-Valva tried to address the court about Del Col’s conflict-of-interest concerns, but Condon told her to sit down. She said after Monday’s hearing that she never spoke to Del Col in Nassau County matrimonial court and challenged the defense attorney to produce video evidence.

“I should be able to respond to false allegations of Mr. Del Col,” said Zubko-Valva, adding she was unhappy the judge prohibited her from speaking. “Obviously he was trying to taint my character, completely making me incapable of defending myself in court, which was obviously a lie.”

Pollina, who did not appear in court Monday, is scheduled to be back March 26.

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