CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The father who beat another man to death at their sons’ hockey practice was sentenced to six to 10 years in prison Friday after the dead man’s 13-year-old boy urged a judge to “teach him a lesson.”
“Let the world know that a person can’t do what he did to my family,” Michael Costin said in an unwavering voice. “No matter how much of a sentence that you give to Thomas Junta, my dad got more.”
Junta, 44, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter earlier this month for beating Michael Costin, 40, on July 5, 2000, in one of the country’s most shocking episodes of a parent losing control at a child’s sporting event. Junta and Costin argued after Junta got angry over rough play on the ice.
Junta testified at his trial that he tried to avoid a fight and only struck Costin in self-defense. A medical examiner said Costin suffered severe brain injuries, and others said Junta pounded Costin’s head and was red-faced with rage.
The burly truck driver could have gotten up to 20 years in prison.
Judge Charles Grabau followed the prosecutors’ recommended sentence, though it called it “most generous” and said he had considered exceeding it.
Junta made only a brief statement, saying in a low, barely audible voice: “I’d just like to apologize to both families and thank my family for all their support for me.” He did not call any character witnesses.
Junta sat handcuffed, his head hung low, as Costin’s children, sister, mother and father told the judge how the slaying had affected their lives.
“I can still remember being hysterical trying to wake him up as the blood streamed down his face,” said Brendan, 14, Costin’s oldest son.
Junta sobbed as his lawyer read from letters Junta wrote to his two children. Junta’s 12-year-old son, Quinlan, witnessed the fight and testified for his father at the trial.
“Remember, you told the truth,” Junta wrote. “Remember, hockey is supposed to be fun, but it’s just a game.”
Before being led away, Junta raised his shackled hands, waved and blew a kiss to his family. One of his sisters sobbed as other siblings tried to comfort her.
Junta must serve at least six years before he becomes eligible for parole. Defense attorney Thomas Orlandi Jr. said he will appeal.
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.”
During the trial and sentencing, prosecutors painted Junta as a 270-pound bully who picked on a much smaller man. Junta’s supporters described him as a “gentle giant,” a devoted husband and father who fell victim to “a very bad set of circumstances.”
But the judge cited Junta’s own words to explain his sentence. Moments after the deadly fight, Junta told a police officer: “I got the better of him. I got in a few more shots.”
The judge said he also considered a previous incident in Junta’s life, which was not brought up at trial: Junta’s wife was granted a restraining order in 1991 after accusing him of beating her in front of their children.
Costin, who had four children, ages 11 through 14, had had a drinking problem and had been in and out of prison for much of his adult life, but had been working as carpenter and painter, according to his father.
The defense brought up Costin’s past in letters submitted to the court, prompting criticism from the judge, who called it an “attempt to shift the focus to the victim as the culprit.” Grabau said the references “cheapen the value of human life.”