Trial begins for youth coach killed by parent

Thursday, January 3, 2002

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A man who claims he beat another hockey dad to death in self-defense went on trial Wednesday in a case that became a national symbol of parental violence at youth sporting events.

Jury selection began in the trial of Thomas Junta, 42. Junta was charged with manslaughter in Michael Costin's death at the Burbank Ice Arena in Reading, north of Boston, on July 5, 2000. At least one son of each of the men was expected to testify.

Costin, 40, was supervising the hockey practice while Junta watched from the stands. Prosecutors say Junta became enraged when he saw body-checking in what was supposed to be a non-contact scrimmage. The two men argued on the ice, then brawled in a hallway.

Junta left, but returned a few minutes later, and a second fight broke out. Prosecutors allege that Junta pinned Costin down and banged his head against the floor until he lost consciousness. Costin died two days later.

The death drew national attention to the growing number of cases of parental rage at youth sporting events.

Junta, who claims Costin was the aggressor in the fight, will testify in his own defense, according to his lawyer, John O'Connor.

The defense had wanted to introduce Costin's psychological history, including records that showed he was taking antidepressants. But Middlesex Superior Court Judge Charles Grabau rejected that request, and the state's Supreme Judicial Court backed Grabau's ruling.

Grabau also prohibited Junta's attorneys from introducing evidence about prescription drugs found in Costin's pockets and other medications that were prescribed for him.

Prosecutors are expected to call attention to Junta's size: 6-foot-1 and about 275 pounds. Costin was 6 feet and weighed 150.

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