WILKES-BARRE — Elderly and ailing, convicted poisoner Helen Galli is likely to die in prison, her lawyer said in appeal documents filed Monday, arguing that the 82-year-old’s health should have factored into sentencing last year.
Luzerne County Judge Fred Pierantoni sentenced Galli to spend 5-1/2 to 12 years in prison for poisoning her son’s girlfriend with antifreeze nearly four years ago.
“In this case, the Court failed to consider and give effect to the defendant’s age and infirmity as relevant mitigating (factors) for sentencing,” wrote defense attorney Al Flora Jr., who is petitioning for a mitigated sentence or house arrest.
“The Court denied trial counsel’s request for a mitigated range sentence without a whisper of consideration of the defendant’s age and infirmity as mitigating factors.”
According to Flora, Pierantoni had the option of imposing a sentence of up to 12 months shorter than the lower limit of the standard range where a mitigating circumstance is present — in this case, that could have meant as little as 3-1/2 years, Flora noted.
A jury in October found Galli guilty of aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment for pouring antifreeze into a glass of Juicy Juice at her Wyoming home in March 2010 and giving it to her son to take to his girlfriend, Dawn Simyan. While Simyan survived, she endured a painful recovery.
Flora argued that a pre-sentencing report for Galli gave only a vague description of her overall health and was silent on specific conditions that plague Galli, including lymph edema of the right leg, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, a history of stomach cancer, scar tissue in her lungs, osteoporosis and back problems. He also pointed out federal life-expectancy statistics would give Galli just 6.53 years more to live if she were in good health.
“Age and infirmity bear directly on the sentencing goals that any sentence be fair and individualized and that a sentence of confinement should not be designed to keep an elderly and infirm person in prison longer than necessary to protect the public and meet the rehabilitative needs of a defendant,” wrote Flora.
Flora also argued:
• The sentence is illegal for undermining the fundamental principle of individualized sentencing and violates Constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
• Galli deserves a new trial because the evidence was “so contradictory and unreliable as to make the verdict based upon the weight of such evidence pure conjecture.” He took particular aim at Simyan’s testimony that Victor Galli told her the drink he handed to her came from his mother, which Flora called “uncorroborated hearsay.”
Galli remains incarcerated in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, officials confirmed Monday.