Hockey dad convicted in beating death sentenced to 6 to 10 years in prison


Friday, January 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



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, 44, had asked to be put on supervised probation with community service. He could have faced up to 20 years.

Junta sat handcuffed, with his head hung low during the hearing as victim Michael Costin's three sons, sister and mother spoke.

``Please punish Thomas Junta and do not allow him to soon get out of prison and ruin another family's life,'' Costin's middle son, Michael, said. ``No matter how much of a sentence that you give to Thomas Junta, my dad got more.''

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

During the trial and sentencing, prosecutors painted Junta, a 270-pound truck driver, as a bully 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.''

Junta did not speak during the hearing and called no witnesses on his behalf.

He sobbed as his defense attorney, Thomas Orlandi Jr., read from letters Junta had written to his two children while the jury deliberated his conviction.

Orlandi also read part of a letter written by a 12-year-old hockey player named Garrett who witnessed the fatal beating in July 2000 at a suburban Boston ice rink.

``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 seated behind him. Barbara Tracy, his sister, sobbed as other siblings tried to comfort her.

The two men had fought at the 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.

The jury determined that Junta did not intend to kill Costin but that he went too far during the fight.

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 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 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.''