The lawsuit alleges that 8-year-old Thomas, who was diagnosed with autism, was starved, beaten, tortured and sexually abused for years before he died

By Chris Harris
June 16, 2020 07:24 PM
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Thomas Valva
| Credit: GoFundMe

The mother of Thomas Valva — the 8-year-old Long Island boy who died in January from severe hypothermia after allegedly being forced to sleep in the garage of his father's home — has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the boy's father, stepmother and several local officials. She is seeking $200 million in damages.

PEOPLE was furnished with a copy of Justyna Zubko-Valva's civil suit, which was filed in New York and names the principal at Thomas' school, the East Moriches Union Free School District, and the district's superintendent as defendants, along with Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Hope Schwartz Zimmerman, and attorneys Donna McCabe and Ethan Halpern, who had been appointed to represent the Valva children in court proceedings that preceded the boy's Jan. 17 death.

The suit also names Randall Ratje, the County Attorney for the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, as well as Thomas' father, Michael Valva, 41, and Michael's fiancée, Angela Pollina, 42.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas, who had been diagnosed with autism, was starved, beaten, tortured and sexually abused for years before he died.

"Sadly, Tommy's death was not only foreseeable, but completely preventable," reads a press release accompanying the lawsuit, which makes allegations dating back to the summer of 2017.

The suit alleges that Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Hope Schwartz Zimmerman "unlawfully, and without due process, a hearing or supporting evidence against Ms. Zubko-Valva, gave custody of her three children, including Tommy, to Michael Valva, even though a prior judge in the case had barred Valva from overnight visits, after reviewing large amounts of evidence files, including evidence documenting Michael Valva's addiction to pornography."

The suit further alleges that Zubko-Valva provided large amounts of evidence to the court, CPS, the police and the children's attorneys, proving her sons were being abused. Judge Zimmerman, the suit alleges, "never bothered to examine this evidence before she issued her ruling," further calling her actions "unlawful, unconstitutional and a clear violation of the Family Court Act."

Valva and Pollina are charged with second-degree murder stemming from Thomas' death. They have pleaded not guilty.

"For over three years, Ms. Zubko-Valva repeatedly warned Defendants that her three young children, Tommy, Anthony and Andrew, were being tortured, beaten, starved, as well as suffering physical, mental and sexual abuse from NYPD Officer Valva and Pollina," reads the statement. "Ms. Zubko-Valva provided the defendants with overwhelming, irrefutable evidence of the graphic, horrific abuse, including documentary proof, audio recordings and transcriptions, photographs and medical reports."

Zubko-Valva, the suit alleges, "specifically warned defendants that her children were in 'enormous danger of losing their lives by Michael Valva and Angelina Pollina.'"

Zubko-Valva's sons "were literally starving to death, with Body Mass Indexes below one percent," reads the statement. "They came to school bruised, crying, hungry, and literally scrounging for food and crumbs off the floor and in the garbage can. Teachers were buying snacks and drinks for them. The children frequently arrived at school with urine-soaked clothes and wearing diapers – having bathroom accidents and not being able to control their bowel movements – despite having been potty trained years before."

The mother's attorney, Jon Norinsberg, said he believes Thomas' father was "protected" from scrutiny because of his position with the NYPD.

"This case is horrific and tragic," Norinsberg says. "Tommy was a small, defenseless boy with a great smile. My client repeatedly warned and showed anyone who would listen that her children were being starved, abused and tortured. Instead of helping the children, the defendants flagrantly violated their legal duties under New York State Law and exhibited a shocking indifference to the children's health, safety and welfare."

Norinsberg added: "This was truly a conspiracy of silence. Valva was protected because he was a police officer. If he had been a normal citizen, he would have been arrested and put in jail. But because he was a police officer, the Defendants looked the other way and let him get away with this horrific abuse. Little Tommy would still be alive if these defendants had done their jobs properly."

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The suit seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Representatives for all of the parties named in the lawsuit would not comment on the allegations Tuesday, citing the ongoing nature of the litigation.

The statement notes that Zubko-Valva's goal is to see "Tommy's Law" passed. The legislation would improve how custody and mandatory child abuse reporting is handled and investigated, as well as create a foundation that would help protect other children like Tommy.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to http://www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.