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Any thoughts on the outcome?

post #1 of 70
Thread Starter 
Hockey Dad Is Convicted in Death
The Associated Press
Jan 11 2002 6:57PM

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - The father of a young hockey player was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Friday for beating another man to death at their sons' practice as horrified onlookers begged him to stop.
Thomas Junta, 44, bowed his head, then slowly raised his eyes to watch the jury forewoman read the verdict. He showed little reaction and was led away as several of his brothers sobbed in the courtroom.

The burly truck driver had been tried on the more-serious charge of manslaughter. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but as a first-time offender will probably be sentenced to three to five years Jan. 25.

The closely watched case became a symbol of what some have said is a growing wave of parental violence at youth sporting events. The trial was carried on national cable networks and the case dominated talk radio.

Junta claimed he killed Michael Costin, 40, in self-defense after they argued over rough play during the practice on July 5, 2000.

Junta said he tried to avoid coming to blows with Costin, but fought back after the smaller man threw a ``sucker punch,'' jumped on him and continued to hit and kick him after the two men fell to the floor.

Junta said he landed just ``three off-balance'' punches, a claim backed up by witnesses that included his 12-year-old son, Quinlan.

But two witnesses testified Junta struck Costin repeatedly in the head while pinning him to the floor of the Burbank Ice Arena in Reading. The two women said Junta ignored their screams to stop and insistence that ``you're going to kill him!''

After the verdict, forewoman Delores Feeney, surrounded by the other jurors, read a statement: ``We feel we reached a very difficult but proper decision.''

Earlier Friday, Costin's father put his hand on Junta's shoulder in the hallway of the courthouse and told him he held no animosity.

``I don't hate you. I forgive you,'' Gus Costin, 68, said he told him. ``He nodded at me and said, 'thank you.'''

Medical experts for both sides said Costin died of a ruptured artery in his neck, which caused severe brain damage. They differed sharply on how much force - in this case, how many blows - was needed to cause the fatal injury.

The fatal fight was witnessed by about a dozen children, including Junta's son and Costin's three sons. All four boys, ages 11 through 14 - as well as Costin's 11-year-old daughter - sat in the courtroom during closing arguments Thursday.

The confrontation between Costin and Junta began after Junta became angry about slashing and checking at what was supposed to be a non-contact scrimmage, which Costin was supervising. Junta said he saw another player elbow his son in the face.

Witnesses said that when Junta yelled at Costin for not controlling the rough play, he snapped: ``That's hockey.'' The two men then got into a scuffle near the locker rooms that was quickly broken up by bystanders.

Junta went outside, but returned moments later. He said he came back to pick up his son and his friends, who were still inside the locker room.

Nancy Blanchard, a rink worker, said Junta shoved her aside and headed straight for Costin.

Junta, however, testified that Costin jumped him and he was forced to defend himself. He said he delivered three quick blows, then stopped when he saw Costin put his hand up over his face.

Prosecutors repeatedly called attention to the barrel-chested Junta's size - 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds. Costin was 6 feet, 156 pounds.

In his closing argument, Junta's lawyer called him a ``gentle giant'' who took a ``serious thrashing'' at the hands of Costin during their first scuffle. Junta had a 4-inch scratch on his face, a ripped shirt, cuts on his arms and scratches on his legs from where he said Costin kicked him with his skates.

Junta, who shed tears at times during his testimony, said he left the rink without knowing how gravely he had injured Costin.

``I thought when he laid back down that he was just resting,'' he said, his voice choking and chin trembling.

Costin never regained consciousness. He died the next day.
post #2 of 70

Although I don't believe that he should've walked, I don't believe he should've been convicted of manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter means that he "involuntarily" used excessive force. He was wrong and I believe he should be punished. What kind of example would it set for his kid if he was acquitted. It's saying "See?? Anyone can beat the crap out of someone for instigating a fight and get away with it." At least this will teach everyone that this kind of violence will not be tolerated.

People in a rage are only focused on what is making them angry and they cannot be stopped. It's the equivalent of road rage. I think what he got was fair. Now the only question is what kind of sentence will he get. He can be sentenced up to 20 years and get as little as probation. I think some kind of sentence is should be given.
post #3 of 70
Involuntary manslaughter? He got off easy .... In my opinion, he meant to kill the poor guy Look at the height and weight of the 2 men ........ it was proven that 1-2 blows of that force was enough to kill him, yet he didn't stop after that, even after witnesses told him to stop. He should get the 20 years ....... probation just wouldn't be suitable. And, what about the kid?? I agree with Donna.
post #4 of 70
Thread Starter 
I feel so sick that the kids of both of the men were there to see it. I don't know what is more traumatizing, see your father die, or seeing your father kill someone. Each has to be emotionally devastating in their own way. The whole thing is such a tragedy.
post #5 of 70
It makes me angry that two adult men can't act like grown-ups. They came to blows over a sporting event, for crying out loud. I know it was one man's child, and I know how I'd feel in his shoes, but beating up the coach won't make your point. In organized sports there are channels for dealing with that stuff.

Did I understand that the father was wearing skates when he attacked the coach? ("cuts on his arms and scratches on his legs from where he said Costin kicked him with his skates") Why did nobody try to pull this guy off the coach? Why did no other parent physically stand in between them? I'm sure the coach didn't even hear the people telling him to stop. The whole team must be traumatized, the two sons especially.

Hockey can be violent, just like football and probably a few other sports, and our kids rely on their adult coaches to set the standards and enforce safe play. What an example this man has set. Neither of them behaved well, but what a shame one of them had to die.

I think manslaughter is an entirely appropriate sentence.

Edit: typed so fast I omitted a few words, oops.
post #6 of 70
First of all, the case got tons of publicity because it transpired in the northeast. We've had a few similar cases here in the northwest over the years, but they didn't make the front page of the New York Times for days on end. Anyway, the guy got off with a slap on the wrist. As has already been pointed out, there was nothing "involuntary" about what the guy did. It sure as hell wasn't self defense, not after the other fellow stopped resisting. Sports-related violence, whether it's hockey-related or cheerleader-related, is an ultimate stupidity.

On a side note, I was talking today with a counselor at the local Vet Center (as in "veteran" rather than "veterinary"); and we discussed the ridiculous notion held by some, that big-time contact sports are like "battle." Guess again! Multi-millionaires on a playing field with physicians at hand haven't a clue as to what's involved in "battle." What can happen? Maybe somebody breaks a leg or gets a concussion. In actual "battle," people who are paid very little money are killed or maimed.

Mind, I'm not down on athletics. But the notion that a guy who's beaten to death over a sporting event is less dead than a guy beaten to death out in back of a bar is ludicrous. Bullies are bullies, no matter the circumstances; and when they become murderers they should be punished as such. "Involuntary manslaughter," my butt!

post #7 of 70
Ok, I just had to jump in and say something. I live where this happened, well not in the same town, but close enough by that the local news had live coverage of the entire trial and lots of analysis.

I want to say first of all that I agree that he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter, I mean in the end Mr. Costin did lose his life. But I watched the testimony and I think some of you had a bit of misinformation from what the press was "perceiving" in the newspapers.
The coach, Mr. costin, actually initiated the fight. And also, Mr. Costin was the one with the skates on and kicking Mr. Junta in the head and arms. I believe that Mr. Junta was indeed defending himself, and that he used perhaps excessive force in doing that. There were witnesses who testified that Mr. Costin was kicking him w/ his skates and that he had thrown the first punch. Mr. Junta did in fact punch and fight back, which did result in tragedy, but he was attacked.

I just wanted to say that for those of you who think he got off easy, I think the idea that he took a man's life in front of his own children is punishment in and of itself. And also, I think that seeing it was in self defense, that was obviously taken into consideration. This man was remorseful, he was very sincere on the stand, and I think truly believed he was only defending himself from this punching out of control man.

Just my view, from actually watching the trial.
Oh by the way, I saw an interview w/ the victims dad and apparently there are some "violence" issues in the family before this ever happened, which I think also helped convince the jury that perhaps Mr. Costin did indeed initiate the altercation.
post #8 of 70
Irregardless of who did what to who I am heartily sick to death of the idea hockey is intrinsically violent. That is pure unadulterated BULLSHIT!!!!I grew up playing backyard and pond hockey..organized and enjoyed by us kids. The violence springs from "organized" hockey run by so-called ADULTS. They get some kind of perverted thrill out of taking a fun sport and turning it into a gang war. Parents shelling out thousands for league memberships and hockey equipment talk about sportsmanship but put pressure on the kids to WIN. Sponsors want win column results for their ad money. "Coaches" want a lot of wins in their resumes. The kids don't MATTER!! Most young kids quit hockey by the age of 12 because of the pressure.Those that remain are hounded by the idea that only the "REAL" men will do ANYTHING to reach the ridiculous wages of the NHL.

Wayne Gretsky,perhaps the best hockey player who ever lived,was and still is denigrated and villified by the "sports experts" because he played hockey the way it should be. Even tho he holds more records and awards than anyone he still gets tagged "wuss" and "fairy". Eric Lindross who is basically a "goon" player himself teeters on being totally disabled or dead from head injurys. Don Cherry makes me sick.

I don't even watch the game anymore. If I want to see violence I'll watch WWF where at least it's better executed.
post #9 of 70
Reason # 8 zillion on why organized sports for children has gotten out of hand. These parents live vicariously through their children and have some type of ridiculous pipe dream of their kid becoming a professional athlete. I am so sick and tired of success in sports being the only benchmark to measure success. This myth is particularly perpetuated in lower income families. I had a student who recently commented to me how his father wouldn't let him go outside to play with the neighborhood kids because it tired him out too much for football practice. If some of this interest and energy was focused on schoolwork, many problems would be eliminated or reduced.
post #10 of 70
I have to agree with Deb25 here. Sports have become the "end all, be all". And if your child does not participate in some sort of sport they are labeled negatively. My son has asthma, and until recently he had a hard time with anything that would take his breath away. So we limited his sports participation. They adjusted his medications and now he is much better, but up until a few months ago, he was the only one of his friends who didnt' do either baseball or soccer.

I particularly don't agree that sports have to be a part of your life in order for you to succeed. There is a commercial on tv here in Massachusetts with a girl who talks about how sports kept her on track, and out of trouble. That is fine and dandy ,but you know what?? Not every child who does not play a sport ends up a hoodlum, and it is up to the parent to keep their kids on track with activities in general, not just sports.
post #11 of 70

Is manslaughter necessarily involuntary?

I understand the difference between manslaughter and murder is that murder is pre-planned and manslaughter is accidental or at least unintentional. I think it is only involuntary if it is a by-product of something else. For example, losing control of the car while driving drunk and hitting someone would be involuntary, beating a guy to death might not be intentional, but it is voluntary. I think they can find him guilty of manslaughter (causing an accidental death) without finding it involuntary (out of his control).
post #12 of 70
He could have been found guilty of either involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter or acquital. Those were the only possible options the judge gave.

He was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which does mean that he is responsible for the death but he didn't intend to kill him when the altercation began. Essentially, it was an unintentional death, but he is still criminally responsible. I think if he had been found guilty of voluntary they would have had to prove that he wanted to kill the man and that was his intent when the altercation began. The prosecution did not prove this, thus the verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
post #13 of 70
Thank you Daniela.

I have so much respect for people who can keep all this straight. There are reason's why I'm not a lawyer!
post #14 of 70
Thread Starter 

thanks for the input. I have been following this case in the paper and online, but it makes such a difference to be able to 'see' it. It's one thing to read that he appeared remorseful, but quite another to actually see his face.

The whole thing is so sad. Sounds like both men had hot tempers that were quick to flare up. Even before this happened, what were their sons learning from them in terms of control and being the 'bigger' person? I don't have kids, but if I did, I would try my best to be a role model to them. To teach them by not only my words but by my example. What poor judgement to get in a fight in front of your child.

Unfortunately it's the kids and the families who are the biggest losers here. And I do agree that what Junta has to live with is the biggest punishment (considering he was remorseful) anyone could hand him. Imagine waking up everyday with the reality that you had killed a man in front of his child and your own.

You know, anymore, when you apply for college, it's strongly recommended that you have some sort of athelic activity on your resume. It's considered being well rounded or some crap like that. I agree to much emphasis is put on sports. I think it's important for kids to have some outlet, some other interests, whether it be soccor, band, school government, a foreign lauguage club, whatever. It doens't have to be sports related.

The closest I ever got to sports in high school was being the camera man (or is that woman ) for the girls basketball team! They liked to video tape their games for critiquing later on, and my best friend was on the cheerleading squad (no where near as prestigious as the boys basketball cheerleaders, and considereed more a joke) so she encouraged me to do it so we could hang out at the away games.
post #15 of 70
Sunlion, the only reason I was able to keep this one straight was because its a local story here in Massachusetts and I watched the trial live. They did a lot of analysis and explaining so I kind of knew the difference between the different possible outcomes.

Either way, its a lose, lose situation. One father is dead and never coming back, and the other is also a father and his life is forever changed. Whether he goes to prison or not ( which they say he will probably get 2-5 years ), his son saw this and is just as traumatized in my opinion. Everyone is a loser here, no winners at all.
post #16 of 70
AP you hit the nail on the head when you said its different to "read" it rather than "see " it.....it made a world of difference to me and my view of it. I was totally againt him before the trial started, but my opinion quickly changed when I saw his testimony.
post #17 of 70

Honestly, I think the guy should've been aquitted. I've been wathcing that trial everyday on Court TV...there was so much discrepency in the witnesses for the prosecution. The jury came back and asked for a hard copy of judges instructions. He had provided them with a tape. He denied them the hard copy. In my opinion, there was not enough proof to find this man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; an observation made due to watching this each day...Ironically, the penalty for voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter is the same! It was a difficult case to watch because of what Daniela mentioned. I hope the guy gets probation.

post #18 of 70
Okay, the way I understand homicide is that there are two kinds: manslaughter and murder. Murder involves a pre-conceived intent to kill someone. In that respect, the convict in this case surely didn't commit murder. The law, in its wisdom, holds that a person who is defending herself/himself must stop being violent when the initial attacker stops being violent. In that respect, the convict here did not stop being violent at that critical juncture. Hence, the manslaughter charge.

Why would the judge refuse the jury a transcript? I've been on juries over the years; and one thing I've found is that judges can be very arrogant. They're drunk with their own power. Attorneys and judges alike despise jurors. Even though we're supposed to have a trial by our peers should we be brought before the bar, attorneys and judges consider those "peers" to be nothing but a big pain in the butt. Nice attitude, isn't it? Jurors should be treated with great respect, but instead they're herded about like cattle and their requests to review documents and the like are regularly denied. I rate judges a notch or two below journalists in the ethics and morality department.

About hockey: Years ago I worked with a fellow from Canada who had coached hockey. He put the blame for the game's violence directly on the Canadian Junior Hockey League which, he asserted, encouraged and promoted violent play. He finally quit the sport altogether because of this. Athletes in all sports are considered mere automatons by governing bodies, sponsors, the media of communication and sport clubs themselves (team owners).

post #19 of 70

I think you misunderstood me. The jury didn't ask for a transcript. They asked for a hard copy of the judges instructions/guidance as to help the come to their decision. Since that was taped, he saw no reason to give them a hardcopy...go figure...I wouldn't think it'd be a big deal, he said it was due to time constraints.

post #20 of 70
A "hardcopy" of verbal instructions is a transcript. And isn't it nice to know that when somebody's liberty is on the line some dufus judge can't be bothered to help jurors reach a decision? Can you spell "justice"?

post #21 of 70
Having been to court reporting school, I agree, but it's only part of the transcript, not the whole copy. Not to try to be a know it all here, but I do realize your point.

post #22 of 70
Thread Starter 
Hockey Dad Sentenced to Six to 10 Years
The Associated Press
Jan 25 2002 1:56PM

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - A man who beat another father to death during their sons' youth hockey practice was sentenced to six to 10 years in prison Friday for involuntary manslaughter.
Thomas Junta, who had faced up to 20 years, was sentenced after his victim's son asked the judge to ``please teach Thomas Junta a lesson.''

Junta, 44, sat handcuffed, with his head hung low as Michael Costin's three sons, sister and mother spoke. He sobbed as his attorney talked about his own 12-year-old son, Quinlan, who witnessed the July 5, 2000, fight at a suburban Boston ice rink.

Junta's only comment during the hearing was nearly inaudible.

``I'd just like to apologize to both families and thank my family for all their support of me,'' he said. He called no witnesses.

Costin's middle son, Michael, told the judge: ``No matter how much of a sentence that you give to Thomas Junta, my dad got more.''

``Please punish Thomas Junta and do not allow him to soon get out of prison and ruin another family's life,'' the boy said. ``Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson.''

The case drew national attention as a deadly example of the growing problem of parental rage at youth sporting events.

Junta and Costin fought at the ice rink after Junta objected to rough play during a pickup hockey game. Costin was supervising his three sons, Junta's son and several other boys on the ice.

During the trial and sentencing, prosecutors painted Junta as a bully, a 270-pound truck driver who picked on a much smaller man. Supporters described him as a ``gentle giant,'' a devoted husband and father who fell victim to ``a very bad set of circumstances.''

The judge followed the prosecutors' recommended sentence, though he called it lenient and generous and said he considered exceeding it.

Junta's attorney, who had requested supervised probation for his client, said he would appeal.

Junta sobbed during the hearing as defense attorney Thomas Orlandi Jr. read from letters Junta had written to his two children.

``Remember you told the truth,'' Junta wrote in the letter to his son Quinlan. ``Remember, hockey is supposed to be fun, but it's just a game.''

Orlandi also read part of a letter written by another witness, a 12-year-old hockey player named Garrett.

``Quinn needs his dad more than anything. ... Tom didn't mean for any of this to happen. ... Please don't punish Tom for something he didn't mean and didn't want to happen,'' Orlandi read.

Before being led away, Junta raised his shackled hands to blow a kiss and wave to his family. Barbara Tracy, his sister, sobbed as other siblings tried to comfort her.

The jury in Junta's trial had determined Junta didn't intend to kill Costin but that he went too far. During testimony, a medical examiner said Costin suffered severe brain injuries that could have resulted from his head being beaten into the floor. Junta had said he tried to avoid the fight and only hit Costin in self-defense.

Some previous incidents in Junta's life, which were not brought up at trial, were taken into consideration for the sentencing.

Junta's wife, Michelle, was granted a restraining order in 1991 when she alleged that he beat her in front of their two children and another child. A court ordered Junta out of the couple's apartment and gave his wife temporary custody of the children.

Orlandi dismissed the restraining order as irrelevant and stressed that the couple was still together. But the judge on Friday read from part of that order, which said Junta hit his wife at a wedding in front of children.

Costin, 40, had four children, ages 11 through 14. His father, Gus, said Costin had a drinking problem and had been in and out of prison for much of his adult life. But he had quit drinking and was working steadily as a carpenter and painter, he said.

Six months before he was killed, he regained custody of his children.

``Don't worry about what the judge says today, Mr. Junta,'' Gus Costin said Friday. ``Worry about what the judge upstairs is going to say. That's eternity.''

Costin's sister, Mary Barbuzzi, and prosecutors said they considered the sentence fair.

``We believe justice has been served,'' Barbuzzi said. ``Our prayers will be with the Junta family, and our family will try to move beyond this tragedy.''
post #23 of 70
One man is dead, another in prison for several years and two families are devastated. It appears both men involved in the fight had histories of violence which they had sublimated in recent months, but which nevertheless emerged in that one brief and tragic incident. What can one say about all this? The system has spoken, "So let it be written, so let it be done." We can only hope the two families can cope and find eventual peace of mind.

post #24 of 70
post #25 of 70
He should have gotten probation in my opinion. Like I stated earlier, I followed the trial on local tv ( I am in MA ), and he should never have even be found guilty. It was a poor case, and the sentencing is even poorer.

I am disgusted at the outcome.
post #26 of 70
I think alot of people missed that Costin had quite a violent past himself. He had a criminal record of assaults and battery, among other things. This was a case of self defense ( hence the INVOLUNTARY manslaughter vs. voluntary ), and even though the jury convicted him I think the sentence was way too stiff. Now 2 families are hurting, and even more children will have no father.
post #27 of 70
A self-defense alibi for use of deadly force becomes moot as soon as the instigating attacker has been subdued. What landed this guy in jail is the fact he re-entered the facility, which indicates malice aforethought; and he continued using deadly force after his attacker no longer posed any threat.

post #28 of 70
While I'm not super familiar with the details of the case, going by what I've seen, read etc. I tend to agree with Joe here. Once Costin stopped fighting back and Junta kept up the attack, self defense was out the window. Regardless of all the technicalities (ie Costins violent background, who started the fight etc) this man killed someone and certainly deserves to be punished for it. Although I think his worst punishment is going to be the disappointment of his children in what their father is capable of.
post #29 of 70
I have to agree with Daniela. I watched the case each day...I think that accidents do happen in the heat of the moment and certainly this is one of the saddest trials I've ever seen; as far as both families are concerned.

Probation would have been stringent enough for the guy. Obviously they couldn't drag up any other dirt on the guy...a man is fallable to any kind of mistake. This wasn't premeditated and it was prevoked by Costin (yes, who has a violent backfground).

I don't have kids, but if I was fighting for fear this guy didn't seem to give a crap about my kid or the other kids safety, trust me, I probably wouldn't stop until someone wasn't moving either.

post #30 of 70
Hmmm . . . As a parent, if my child was in immediate danger, I would definitely be prepared to beat the tar out of the person who was the threat. But, in a sports situation, if I disagreed with the coach's methods, I would simply withdraw my child and lodge a complaint. Once they original situation was over, attacking the man was an error in judgement and showed a lack of self-control. At that moment the child was safe, he had other options for dealing with this situation, and physical force was not necessary. I understand the anger but allowing it to rule you sets a bad example for the child. As parents, it is our children's welfare that often guides our behavior - there are a lot of things I do because it is good for my child but it wouldn't necessarily be my first choice - and he has done his child no favors by killing this man.
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