Police officer says hockey dad admitting being in fight at ice skating rink

Friday, January 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ A police officer testified Friday that he arrived at the scene of a fatal fight between two hockey dads and found the victim motionless and surrounded by children.

Reading Police Sgt. James Cormier was the first to take the stand in the manslaughter trial of Thomas Junta, 42, who is accused of beating a man to death after their sons' hockey practice in July 2000. Junta claims he acted in self-defense.

Michael Costin, 40, died the day after the fight, which occurred at Burbank Ice Arena in Reading, a suburb 15 miles north of Boston.

Cormier said when he arrived he saw Junta outside the arena. His shirt was ripped and he had a scratch on his face. Cormier said he asked Junta if he was a participant in the fight and Junta nodded or said yes. He then asked Junta where the other man was.

``His response to me was that he was inside laying down,'' Cormier testified.

Cormier said Costin was lying motionless, with open eyes staring straight ahead. Costin was ''surrounded by a lot of children.''

Several children witnessed the fight, and the prosecutor's list of potential witnesses includes the two men's sons and nine other children.

Both sides in the case agree Junta argued with Costin, then left the rink with his 10-year-old son, returned, and a second fight ensued.

Prosecutors say Junta, a 6-foot-1, 270-pound truck driver, used his size to overpower the 160-pound Costin, then pounded his head on the floor until he lost consciousness.

Dr. Stanton Kessler, the medical examiner who performed Costin's autopsy, said he died of blunt trauma to the head and neck, including a severe brain injury.

Kessler testified the injury could have resulted from Costin's head being beaten into the floor, as prosecutors allege.

When asked by Junta's attorney, he acknowledged the same injury could have occurred if Costin were on Junta's back and Junta had flipped him over. The defense claims that is what happened.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday.