- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

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 yesterday for involuntary manslaughter.

Thomas Junta, who could have faced up to 20 years in prison, had asked to be put on supervised probation with community service. His attorney said he would appeal.

Junta, 44, sat handcuffed, with his head hung low during the hearing as victim Michael Costin's three sons, sister and mother spoke. Mr. Costin's middle son, Michael, asked the judge to teach Junta a lesson.

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

"No matter how much of a sentence that you give to Thomas Junta, my dad got more," he said. "Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson."

The judge followed the 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 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."

Junta called no witnesses on his behalf.

"I'd just like to apologize to both families and thank my family for all their support of me," he said in a quick, nearly inaudible voice.

Junta sobbed as his 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, who witnessed the fight at a suburban Boston rink July 5, 2000, and testified at the trial. "Remember, hockey is supposed to be fun, but it's just a game."

Mr. 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 determined that Junta didn't intend to kill Mr. Costin, but that he went too far. At trial, a medical examiner testified Mr. 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 Mr. Costin in self-defense.

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