WILKES-BARRE — The gloves are off.
An appeal brief filed on behalf convicted poisoner Helen Galli takes aim at the statements of her victim as hearsay from a woman with a history of self-proclaimed “bizarre” behavior while intoxicated.
Defense attorney Al Flora Jr. filed the brief Tuesday in Luzerne County Court. It follows on the heels of the initial appeal documents filed earlier this month.
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.
Luzerne County Judge Fred Pierantoni later sentenced Galli to spend 5-1/2 to 12 years in prison.
Expanding on themes mentioned in the earlier filing, Flora’s brief poses the following questions:
• Whether the evidence is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Galli poisoned Simyan.
• Whether the verdict, “based on uncorroborated hearsay evidence,” is outweighed by other evidence that Galli did not poison Simyan.
• Whether the sentence is illegal because Pierantoni did not give consideration to Galli’s age, physical infirmities and life expectancy as mitigating evidence.
• Whether the sentence is excessive, for the same reasons.
• Whether information the court used to determine sentence is adequate for reason for imposing a standard range sentence on the aging and ailing Galli.
Flora previously 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.
But Simyan, her testimony and history also are key points in Tuesday’s filing.
Simyan testified that Victor Galli gave her the juice drink, saying, “my mother said drink this, it will make you feel better …”
“As uncorroborated hearsay, the statement is patently unreliable so as to render any verdict that Helen poisoned Dawn pure conjecture, thus rendering the evidence insufficient to sustain the verdict as a matter of law,” Flora wrote.
Additionally, he wrote, “It would be unreasonable for the jury to infer from that statement that Helen laced the drink with antifreeze and that was the drink which poisoned Dawn.”
Flora goes on to recall testimony that Simyan had been drinking at some local bars on the night of March 30, 2010, and felt “tipsy.”
“She admitted that she has a drinking problem and will do ‘bizarre’ things when she is intoxicated,” Flora wrote of Simyan, who was staying at Victor Galli’s house on the morning of March 31, 2010.
He also pointed out that Simyan testified to finishing the Juicy Juice and later drinking a half bottle of orange juice that Victor Galli had given her, saying it tasted sweeter than normal. Finally, Flora noted, Victor Galli testified to later giving Simyan another glass of berry juice from a bottle kept in a refrigerator in his garage.
“The crux of the Commonwealth’s case … is based upon Dawn’s testimony, which Victor contradicted …” he wrote. “There is no evidence to connect that specific drink with the poisoning.”