Tags: Hockey | Dad | Convicted | Sports-Rage | Death

Hockey Dad Convicted in Sports-Rage Death

Friday, 11 January 2002 12:00 AM

The jury deliberated about 14 hours over two days before finding Thomas Junta, 44, of Reading, Mass., guilty in the death two years ago of Michael Costin, 40, of Lynnfield, Mass.

With Junta's family and friends in tears in the courtroom, the burly truck driver was ordered held pending sentencing Jan. 25. He could be sentenced to as much as 20 years, but most likely will get less because the verdict was guilty of involuntary, rather than voluntary, manslaughter.

Junta stood with his head down as the verdict was read.

The two men had engaged in a fistfight on July 5, 2000, after Junta accused Costin of failing to control hitting, fighting and slashing in what was supposed to be a non-contact ice hockey scrimmage at Burbank Ice Arena in Reading.

Costin died of head injuries suffered in the brawl.

The Middlesex Superior Court jury of nine women and three men rejected Junta's contention he was acting in self-defense when he repeatedly punched Costin, causing fatal injuries.

The trial attracted national attention because it involved the growing problem of adults acting out violently at youth sports events. It was believed to be the first such parental sports-rage case that resulted in death.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that the two men had a fistfight after Junta became upset that Costin failed to control rough play in a youth pickup hockey game involving Junta's 10-year-old son and Costin's three boys, ages 9 to 13.

Junta was watching what was supposed to be a non-contact stick practice while Costin was on skates in full hockey gear on the ice, supervising the session.

During testimony in the weeklong trial, much attention was brought to the difference in size of the two men; Junta outweighed Costin by more than 100 pounds.

Prosecutors allege Junta, in a violent rage, used his size to overpower the much smaller man, punching him repeatedly and slamming his head to the floor, causing fatal head injuries.

The defense, however, describing Junta as a "gentle giant," said the 275-pound truck driver was acting in self-defense as the 150-pound Costin attacked him in the lobby of the rink.

"Any reasonable person would have the right to fight off an attack and to defend himself," defense attorney Thomas Orlandi Jr. said in his closing arguments Thursday.

"Gentle giant?" prosecutor Sheila Calkins said in a mocking voice, reminding the jury of testimony that described how Junta took Costin's head and "slammed it into the floor mat.

"Self defense? Does that sound like self-defense to you?"

Calkins dramatically dropped to her knees to describe for the jury her version of the fatal fight between the two men, recalling testimony from two women who said they saw Junta throw six to 10 punches at the prone Costin. She said Nancy Blanchard and Virginia Brings were in the best position to see the fight.

Orlandi, however, dismissed the women's versions. He said they were too emotional to accurately see what happened. Orlandi recalled for the jury how other witnesses told of seeing just three punches.

Junta took the stand in his own defense and said he threw only three punches after Costin tried to sucker-punch him, resulting in a struggle that wound up with both men on the floor.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The jury deliberated about 14 hours over two days before finding Thomas Junta, 44, of Reading, Mass., guilty in the death two years ago of Michael Costin, 40, of Lynnfield, Mass. With Junta's family and friends in tears in the courtroom, the burly truck driver was ordered...
Hockey,Dad,Convicted,Sports-Rage,Death
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2002-00-11
Friday, 11 January 2002 12:00 AM
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