Thomas Junta when he was in court for his conviction in 2002. (Picture credit: AP)

On January 11, 2002, a judge and jury of Middlesex County Superior Court found Thomas Junta, 44 (at the time), guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The case was nationally broadcasted by CNN and CourtTV as it had gained notoriety due to the circumstances of the death, resulting in a massive wave of media, social media, and other reactions to it. Thomas Junta had killed another man, Michael Costin, during a physical altercation as a result of “rough play” during practice in hockey for both the victim’s and perpetrator’s sons.

The national attention brought about controversial issues of “parental involvement” in youth sports and parent(s) being too competitive at youth sports events and games. The case became a “hot” platform on talk shows on radio, television, and more. It also became a symbolic case that would set a precedent for further cases involving parents’ involvement in injury and/or death from physical altercations at sporting events. Many felt like this was a growing problem as of late with violence at sporting events, especially youth sporting events.

Junta was found guilty after 13 hours of deliberation. Certain jurors cited that though Junta acted in self-defense, he went too far as the victim was not able to continue in the altercation and Junta continued on.

The circumstances surrounding the incident was that Junta said something to Costin about his boy playing too rough, at which Costin stated, “That’s Hockey!” After that statement, a verbal altercation ensued at which Costin threw a punch at Junta. Other parents and coaching personnel broke the two apart and made Junta leave, who shortly later came back and went straight at Costin. According to Junta, at that time he threw only three punches. However, after the first punch, Costin was not conscious and did not respond back.

A former Massachusetts medical examiner testified Costin died when an artery at the base of his brain was severed and ruptured by use of force and that he also had injuries in 15 places. Both Junta and Costin had criminal records. Junta had previously been arrested for breaking and entering as well as assault and battery. Costin had a very long list of petty crimes, including assault and battery, breaking and entering, receiving stolen property, assaulting a police officer, and violating a restraining order.

On January 25, 20002, Judge Charles Grabau sentenced Junto to 6-10 years in incarceration.

Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley stated at the end of the trial, “We have had the goal of holding Thomas Junta responsible for the death of Michael Costin,”

Coakley continued, ”Unfortunately, tonight there are two sets of children at home without fathers,” she said. ”There is no joy, therefore, in this resolution. Our hope tonight is that if there is any good to come of this, it is that we will not see another parent on the autopsy table as a result of parental rage over children’s sports.”
Thomas Junta was released from prison on August 27, 2010. According to news sources, Junta died December 16, 2020 after a battle with cancer.
Sources:
1. Butterfield, F. (2002, January 12). Man Convicted in Fatal Beating In Dispute at Son’s Hockey Game. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/12/us/man-convicted-in-fatal-beating-in-dispute-at-son-s-hockey-game.html

2. Fox News. (2010, August 27). Man Released From Mass. Prison After Serving Time for Beating Death of Fellow Hockey Dad. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/us/man-released-from-mass-prison-after-serving-time-for-beating-death-of-fellow-hockey-dad

3. Associated Press. (2002, January 12). Jury convicts hockey dad of involuntary manslaughter. The Washington Times. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2002/jan/12/20020112-034844-9382r/

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