Hockey dad convicted of involuntary manslaughter for fatal beating

By Denise Lavoie

Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The father of a young hockey player was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Friday for beating another man to death at their sons’ practice as a horrified crowd begged him to stop.

Thomas Junta, 44, showed little reaction as the verdict was read, though several of his brothers sobbed and hugged other family members as he was led out of 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 during a Jan. 25 hearing.

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 156-pound Costin threw a “sucker punch” at him, jumped on him and continued to hit and kick him after the two men fell to the floor. Junta claimed he landed just “three off-balance” punches.

But two witnesses testified Junta struck Costin repeatedly in the head while pinning him to the thinly matted 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!”

Other witnesses, including Junta’s 12-year-old son, Quinlan, corroborated Junta’s claim that he threw only three punches.

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.

Copyright ©2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Everett
Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Everett
Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, left, a member of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, speaks Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, looks on at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. After the speech, Inslee signed a bill sponsored by McCoy that seeks to improve oral health on Indian reservations in Washington state. The measure is the first bill the governor has signed this legislative session and it allows tribes to use federal funding for dental therapists. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Curriculum on state tribes to be renamed after late Tulalip legislator

On Tuesday, John McCoy’s former colleagues in the Senate honored the late lawmaker by passing House Bill 1879.

Lynnwood
Man stabbed, killed inside Lynnwood-area condo

Detectives were looking to identify suspects in a killing Monday night at the Brio Condominiums.

Everett Housing Authority is asking for city approval for it’s proposed development of 16 acres of land currently occupied by the vacant Baker Heights public housing development on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
North Everett housing project plan gets taller with 15-story buildings

The original plans for the Park District called for 12-story apartments. Another public hearing is set for March 5.

Mt. Pilchuck covered in snow is barely visible through the clouds as the sun breaks through illuminating raindrops as they fall off of the Mountain Loop Highway on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Active’ weather brings rain, snow, hail, fresh powder to Snohomish County

Up to an inch of snow could accumulate in the lowlands. Three inches of rain could fall in Darrington. And Stevens Pass is “doing quite well.”

Cousins Penny Leslie and Sidney Baker work together on a mural inside a jail cell at the Mukilteo Police Department on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
No more staring at blank canvas in Mukilteo police holding cells

Bright murals now adorn the walls. The artwork is intended to calm and relax detainees.

Joanne Fisher, right, a meat wrapper with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on  Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Fisher was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
US sues to block merger of grocery giants Kroger, Albertsons

Grocery workers in Snohomish County and elsewhere have argued the merger would stymie competition and hurt workers.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee during its meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, where the panel indicated it would not move ahead with legislation to cap residential rent increases at 7%. The move effectively killed the bill for the 2024 legislative session. (Bill Lucia/Washington State Standard)
Plan for 7% statewide cap on rent increases fails in Olympia

State Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, told reporters the bill did not have enough support to move it forward.

Shoppers cross Alderwood Mall Parkway after leaving the mall and walking through its parking lot on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood police seek 3 suspects after pursuit, brief shootout

The driver of a stolen car intentionally hit a teen boy Sunday, officers said. Police pursued the suspects near I-5.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.