CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hockey Dad Killer Gets Six to 10 Years in Prison
Aired January 25, 2002 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We take you to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where sentencing is under way for convicted hockey dad Thomas Junta.
Let's listen in on the proceedings here.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
MARY BARBUZZI, MICHAEL COSTIN'S SISTER: ... entitled "Only in my Dreams." I'd like him to read part of the essay for you.
BRENDAN COSTIN, MICHAEL COSTIN'S SON: "Ever since my first day here on Earth, there has been a special bond between my father and I, and never ever did I think anything would happen like it did. Michael Costin was one I looked up at for many reasons.
The five of us made a great team, and my dad loved to see us having fun, and would do practically anything to help us be happy. He used to take our friends out everywhere: mall movies, home run derbies, street hockey are just some of this things we enjoyed doing with him.
Just an average day at the skating rink, my brothers, friends, and I thought it would be prior to the game on the ice, everyone in the locker room was grand time, including my dad. We were telling jokes and stories, as we usually did. I can still remember being hysterical trying to wake him up as the blood streamed down his the face.
I rushed to the hospital in the ambulance. My father stopped breathing and had no pulse, and his heart stopped beating.
After two days in the hospital, I realized that I just witnessed my dad literally getting beat to death. He was pronounced dead on the second day of the hospital, and everyone was just in shock and was so sorry for this disaster. Never ever did I think something like this would happen to him, to my loving, caring, and so-fun-to-be-with father.
It has now been 1 1/2 years since this tragic event, and to this day, I can't believe he is really gone. Sometimes, I just think he will come back, but never will it really happen. My brothers, my sister, and I will live with my grandmother, and I miss my sad so much. It's just indescribable. Only in my dreams can I hear his voice and do things I once did. My daddy is one I loved so dearly, and it's just a shame that such a nice man like him had to leave this Earth.
Thank you, Dad.
BARBUZZI: I ask the court to please punish accordingly and remember our sentence: life without Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Michael Costin.
MICHAEL COSTIN, VICTIM'S SON: Your honor, I am Michael Costin, the second oldest son of Mike Costin, my dad.
I want first to thank everyone who worked so hard getting the case to trial. I thank the district attorney, Mrs. Coakley, the assist district attorney, Mrs. Calkins, for all the great work. The police who helped investigate and testify at trial. Our victim witness advocates, who helped my family so much, especially Mr. Lowney (ph). I thank your honor and all court workers. I thank each of the jurors for their work and for saying Thomas Junta is guilty. I thank the witnesses, and especially thank everyone who helped convict Thomas Junta. I thank my family and my friends. They have been here for me during the trial and have been so helpful to me during this whole time since my dad died.
Your honor, I want to tell you what my dad was like. My dad was very shy. I remember that my dad was so quiet he went to some classes to help him be less shy.
My dad didn't express his feelings for me in words; instead, he showed me his love for me by making easier for me in my everyday life. My dad woke me up every morning and helped me get ready for school. He got us to the table for breakfast. He made our lunches to take to school. He picked us up at the end of school day. He always drove me and my friends everywhere we wanted to go. He really liked taking to play baseball and street hockey. He loved to play home run derby, so he would join in as the pitcher.
He also loved to play street hockey with us. When he played street hockey, he never tried to take the puck away from me or from my friend; instead, he would pass it so we could try for a goal. He often got on the losing side, to help them try to even up the game.
My dad brought my brothers, me, and usually a van full of friends to our ice hockey, street hockey, and baseball games. When he wasn't joining in to play with us, he would quietly sit on the sidelines and watch us play. He just sat there and watched.
Later, during the ride home, he told us how he thought we could improve. He would never tell us we stunk, even when we had a bad game. He would always say you had a good game, and then tell us how in the next game we might improve. At home, my dad made dinner for my family, for me, and for any friends who wanted to stay for dinner. My dad cooked all sorts of things, whatever we liked to eat.
My dad always helped me with my homework. He always would go see my teachers if I was falling behind in school. He always told us if we wanted to be good in something that school comes before everything else. He would give me money when I made As or Bs and make we concentrate more when I got less than As or Bs.
It was good at home with my dad. My dad meant everything to me. I never thought I would lose him.
Your honor, I want you to know to what losing my dad has meant to me and to my family. When I tell you how my dad's death has affected me, I can tell you that I am also speaking for brothers, sister, for my family, and for my friends.
On July 5, 2000, after I woke up in the morning, my dad asked if my brothers and I wanted to go to the rink for some stick practice. He also asked if we wanted to bring some friends. We all got in the van and squeezed the hockey gear in the back. On the way to the rink, Dad stopped and picked up two of our friends. We played a stick practice game. My brothers, our friends, and I were winning, so Dad joined the other team, to help out.
After the game ended, we got off the ice. I saw Thomas Junta beating my dad into the ground. For the rest of that day and for the next day my heart was in my throat. I never -- not for a second -- stopped thinking of what happened to my dad.
After being at the hospital for the rest of most of that day, I went home, but I couldn't sleep. We went back to the hospital for all the next day, until 6:45 p.m. The doctor came out and told me and my family that my dad was dead. Right there, I knew my life would never be the same.
My life hasn't been the same. My dad isn't there in the morning to wake me up. My dad isn't there when I play sports. My dad doesn't take us places anymore. My dad doesn't cook us inner anymore.
As the days wore on after my dad died, his room was getting empty. The drawers were empty. He's just not there anymore. I miss him even now; not ten minutes goes by that I don't think of him. I talk to him at church and before I go to bed, but it's not the same.
Before I finish, your honor, I want you to know what punishment that I hope you give to Thomas Junta for what he did to my dad. First, no matter how much of a sentence that you give to Thomas Junta, my dad got more. My dad will never be back to me and my family. Thomas Junta will be back to his family.
If you give Thomas Junta an easy sentence, he may get out and do this again. Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson. Let the world know that a person can't do what Thomas Junta did to my dad, to my family, and to me. For my brothers, for my sister, we all want Thomas Junta to go to prison for as long as your honor can put him there. Please punish Thomas Junta, and do not allow him to soon get out of prison and ruin another family's life.
Thank you, your honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joan Costin, correct?
JOAN COSTIN, MICHAEL'S MOTHER: Yes, Joan Costin. I'm Michael's mother.
I don't have even a paper, because there's no words that I could tell you about the loss we feel. He was their ray of hope. They did not have an easy childhood, so he meant everything to them, and he tried to be everything to them. He took every course that he could take for his shyness, even went through study at Boston University so he could help them, because he was so shy. He was a very quiet, shy man.
I read the papers, and they say what a violent man this man was. He was not a violent man. He was not a violent man. He was a very quiet shy man. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't think it was because he said, "That's hockey," that he died. I don't know the real reason. But I think Mr. Junta was in an awful rage. And I ask the judge to please give him a sentence accordingly, that these children will know that not another family will ever have to suffer like they did.
Thank you, your honor.
ZAHN: You've just been listening to members of Michael Costin's family tell a courtroom about their dad, about their brother, about their son, the man beaten to death by Thomas Junta, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter several weeks ago.
Now we are awaiting the sentencing of Thomas Junta. Judge Charles Grabau has wide discretion in the sentencing, which could run anywhere from probation to 20 years. The sentencing guidelines would suggest a term of even 3 1/2 to five years, and people who have studied previously sentencing records would indicate he might stay within the guidelines.
Let's listen to another statement by a family member.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Costin, the purpose of this hearing, an opportunity I'm giving you for you to explain to the court how the death of your son has affected you, what impact it has had on your life. Do you wish to make a statement, sir?
GUS COSTIN, MICHAEL'S FATHER: Yes, I do, your honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
G. COSTIN: It naturally has broken my heart, and the biggest thing that has broken my heart is what it has done to both families, especially my family. My grandchildren have gone through more probably in one day than most should go through in a lifetime.
Like Michael said, what his father did, cooked for him and did this for him, so on and so forth. Well, I hope I was part of that. They were with me for five years. We went swimming. We went and played hockey. And they where we me for a long time and great -- and thank God, I thought I would never smile when I lost my first son, and that I knew would be brought in the wrong light I said that in the "Today Show," and certainly it has. And Michael and Brandon I know always loved me.
I wish I could have taken the four children, but I just could not handle the four. My wife took the other two. They were in -- the mother was on heroin for two years. Am I bad man because I took these children? Took care of them on a small income? I have a fixed income. I gave them what I could. The first thing in the morning they said, good morning, God. And I said the first thing is God, homework and sports. And these kids, wonderful kids, they missed a couple of years of school because of being in a shelter, two shelters. They came through it like champions, and thank God they did.
And let's not have -- and I hope we don't have hatred. Let the hatred go by. God doesn't want -- my son was a wonderful boy. I wish we got together. I said that at the "Today Show." What they wanted for Christmas was to be granny, nanny and daddy to be more friendly. I don't know what I did by taking care of my grandchildren, but I did the best I could, and I think this shows in their marks of high honors, gifted child, and letters from the doctors, school teachers principals, all my neighbors. I have 100 letters in my behalf, and only by the grace of God, he gave me the strength to help these children, and I'm very glad that I lived long enough to have the pleasure and to be able to be with my grandchildren, and I hope in the future I can spend more time with these grandchildren.
Let's not have hatred. When I say "forgiveness," I don't mean I'm condoning what happened. It was a terrible thing. Mr. Junta has to live with this for the rest of his life, and he will live for this.
Don't worry about the judge says today, Mr. Junta. I don't mean this sarcastically, but worry about what the judge upstairs is going to say. That's eternity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your honor, Terra Costin, Michael Costin's daughter has written a statement...
ZAHN: That was Gus Costin, who Michael Costin's family has made a deliberate effort of trying to explain to the public who doesn't represent the family. I think if you listen to his statement clearly and carefully, you would understand there's great tension within the family. Family torn about by Thomas Junta's former wife having some drug problems and some of the kids at one point being sent to a shelter.
Bill Delaney, let's bring you into this conversation while we await the judge's sentence. Review for us again the wide discretion this judge has in deciding how many years Thomas Junta should spend in prison.
BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, very wide discretion, very wide discretion, extraordinarily wide discretion. The judge, on this involuntary tear manslaughter charge, Paula, could sentence Thomas Junta to 20 years in prison, but could also sentence him to mere probation.
The state sentencing guidelines are three to five years in prison, but I have to say, Paula, judges are human beings. These were devastating impact statements from these children, absolutely devastating, including the fact that not only did they describe the horrible day when their father was killed and witnessing their father killed, and describe the agonizing 24 hours or so as they waited to find out whether their father would survive, but particularly Brandon, the older son, described a hockey game that he said was a lot of fun and not overly violent, not overly rough. The alleged overroughness of the game, what Thomas Junta's defense had said all along, had driven him to the anger that ended up in the brawl, that ended up in death of Michael Costin.
So the judge could also factor that into his mind, even the jury has already made its decision. The judge will not be deciding innocence or guilty. But all of these factors, the emotional factor and the factor of describing a game of hockey that was comfortable, and relaxed and fun, it all enters into the judge's mind as he passes on the sentencing now. I'm not sure...
ZAHN: I'm sorry to cut you off here. I think we would agree with you that these impact statements were devastating, but one wonders exactly what effect that will have on the judge.
DELANEY: As I said, judges are human beings. This judge also -- this is the most high-profile case he will ever try. He's a human being. He knows that. Really, the whole world is watching this. This is not just a case watched all over the United States. It's been very widely followed in Canada and in Europe, and beyond even those places. So this judge will be looking to make a decision along the lines of the law and the strict boundaries and restrictions that any legal decision is contained within.
But he will also inevitably be making a decision that he will want to be read in the public at large and in literally the world at large, that people accept. And when people here this victim-impact statement and hear about a shy, decent man, the judge knows that people will be looking on their own emotions for a longer, rather than shorter sentence, I think, Paula, than we might have anticipated before these victims' statements.
ZAHN: All right, Bill, let's go back to what's going on in the courtroom, the prosecutor at the microphone.
SHEILA CALKINS, PROSECUTOR: It's interesting, your honor, that as the children were crying and begging their father to wake up, Mr. Junta was outside saying that he had gotten the better of Mr. Costin, and then gotten in a few more punches. I think that statement, that as the children were crying and begging their father to wake up, Mr. Junta was outside saying that he had gotten the better of Mr. Costin and then gotten in a few more punches. I think that statement, your honor, was testimony that addresses Mr. Junta's character.
The commonwealth also, your honor, in their sentencing memorandum, has pointed out to this court an incident in 1991 where again, instead of using words, the defendant used his physical assaulting and his fist in a situation, again, where it occurred in front of children. And that, your honor, is a factor that relates directly to the defendant's character. Although the defendant has no convictions, your honor, that incident should certainly be considered by the court related to the character.
The commonwealth is asking, your honor -- and the commonwealth has discussed this with Mr. Costin's family, and Mr. Costin's family will never have their father back, and no matter what the court sentences Mr. Junta to, that is something they will never be able to take back -- but the commonwealth's recommendation, your honor, is 6- to-10 year state prison sentence, and the commonwealth asks the court to adopt its recommendation.
JUDGE CHARLES GRABAU, MIDDLESEX SUPERIOR COURT: Mr. Orlandi.
THOMAS ORLANDI JR., DEFENSE ATTORNEY: First of all, your honor, I would like to say that this is a mutual combat, and it takes two people to get into a mutual combat, and that there are no winners in the case. In fact, there are many losers. And mostly, there are children who lose in this case.
We have recognized this was a terrible accident with criminal consequences. We would ask the court as part of my discussion today to think of some mitigating factors. This is a fight between two men which got out of hand. The experts will succumb us (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Dr. Kessler and Dr. Kanfer indicated and agreed that one punch with minimal force could have caused the vertebral artery to be ruptured. Dr. Kelly, another expert brought in by (UNINTELLIGIBLE), indicated, in his report, in writing that there was no obviously swelling to Mr. Costin's face; no fractures on any part of his body; there was no trauma to his eyes, his lips, his teeth, or his chin. The photos indicate that this was not what we would call a serious beating.
Relative to mitigation, your honor, the evidence presented at trial I suggest strongly shows that Mr. Junta acting in self-defense. The jury verdict is consistent with their finding that Mr. Junta had an honest and a reasonable believe that he was in harm's way and he reacted. Based upon the experts, we show that this happened instantaneously and over a very few seconds. The eyewitnesses testified that after the last punch, Mr. Costin did still have some physical responses indicating to me and to our experts that it was the last punch.
The jury's question on when does self-defense begin and end I think is important because it shows that they were wrestling with the self-defense argument and when it ended.
Immediately following the incident, Mr. Junta cooperated fully with the police and all investigators. He wrote a statement out on the hood of his truck. Immediately following that, he expressed remorse for Mr. Costin, and he said he wished it never happened, and I hope to God he's all right.
At trial, you saw remorse. You saw him testify. He's not a veteran in courtroom. He doesn't come into court every day and testify. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that sustained a lot of drilling by the direct attorney, and he spoke from his heart.
All the families have suffered. Mr. Junta's family has suffered. His children couldn't be here this morning they are so distraught. The incident at the Burbank Ice Arena on July 5, 2000, was not indicative of Thomas Junta's actions as a father and a husband and an individual.
As a brief response to what the district attorney has indicated to you about an incident in 1991, which is over 10 years old, I would just like to say the facts of that case were not presented to you this morning, your honor. Mr. Junta was at his brother's wedding. There was drinking going on between all the parties. The parties involved in that were his wife and Mr. Junta. It involved a pushing and shoving match. There's nothing indicate Mr. Junta used his fists on his wife.
Since that incident, I would ask the court to think of and look at the evidence of what this man has done: to buy a home in Reading, to raise his children, to work four days a week, 15 hours a day to support his family and his kids. He is still with his wife. He is still with his children -- or at least he was.
This case, your honor, came to trial not because Mr. Junta wanted it to come to trial. He did not want these children to be put through this. He did not want them to testify. He was never ever allowed to plead to involuntary manslaughter. He would have done that to keep his children off the stand. The intransigence by the government forced him to trial and forced these young children to come into the courtroom and have to testify.
The jury found that he did not intend to kill anyone. This was a fight. It was a mutual combat between two men.
Your honor, in this case, by your sentence, you have an opportunity to change and to assist society. I don't envy your job. To use Thomas Junta is to bring a message to parents. To lock him up is a waste of such an opportunity. Tom Junta, who stands before you today for sentencing, is a reasonable, honest, hard-working man who by some quirk of fate when the stars lined up in July 2000, he found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time.
As he sat in the Burbank parking lot waiting for his sons and friends, he reacted as any responsible dad would when another parent seated nearby informed him that the action on the ice seemed fully supervised and overly physical. At this moment, as he testified, he put down his newspaper and started to focus on what was going on on that ice. And as John Cullin, the other adult involved in that ice action stated, once he started playing in the game, he saw it start to get physically rough. This was supposed to be a stick practice, your honor. Tom, seeing the violence and the physical abuse going on the ice, seeing those kids wind up on the ice in what I characterized in the trial as a pig pile, he reacted. He went down and he confronted the -- quote -- adult in charge, Mr. Michael Costin. He expected that he too would be reasonable and responsible and put an end to the rough, potentially dangerous play among the young boys.
What Tom had no way of knowing that Michael Costin was not a reasonable, rational, nonviolent individual. From the court proceedings, we all know what has transpired. Tom Junta first reacted as an invested father, and then he was forced to react as any man would when he was attacked physically and verbally trying to protect the safety of his children: He defended himself.
Tom had no reason to fight with Michael Costin. He had no intent to inflict bodily harm upon him. Nor did he realize that this individual, who was aggressively and repeatedly attacking him, might have had a long history of violence or dysfunction. As we all know, the outcome was disastrous and unspeakably sad.
Tom Junta, who grow up in large family in the city; Tom Junta who had no prior criminal record; Tom Junta husband, father of two, homeowner, faithful employees -- Tom Junta has had been the head of a average American functional family. He now finds himself convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
He confronted violence. And as the witness in this case, who has observed many fights before, Ryan Carr, stated in his testimony, he saw what happened. Within five seconds he was there to aid these two individuals. He saw Mr. Costin take his right hand and attempt to punch my client in the face. His next statement was he saw Thomas Junta -- quote -- "go into a defensive posture." He confronted violence. He attempted to protect himself and his son and their friends. And as a result he, not Michael Costin, has become the national symbol of parental rage.
For months he's been vilified by the press, he has had his name and his face flashed all over the state and the world. And all the while, Thomas continued to work, hold himself together, support his family and emotionally try to keep his two children from falling apart. Tom Junta is truly sorry for what happened in July 2000. And, as evidenced by the testimony, he was saddened, and he tried to explain that this was a fight that he -- and that he never intended to kill anyone.
Your Honor, there are alternatives to incarceration in a jail cell for criminal wrong-doing. As I indicated, he has no criminal record. He had no criminal intent. He was not found guilty of any intentional killing. And he, in no way -- he is in no way a threat to society. He and his entire family also will suffer forever for the events that occurred in July 2000.
This will always part of their family history. They will have a scarlet letter on their name for the rest of their lives. As additional punishment, Mr. Junta's family will lose their husband, they will lose their dad, they will lose the financial support, the American dream to keep their home. They may, in fact, lose their home. And they will certainly lose their functional family life as it was known to them.
Would it be more humane, more just and more fiscally responsible and more purposeful to make this punishment really count for something worthwhile, Your Honor? For Tom to be placed on closely supervised probation that requires him to perform all of his obligations both to the state and to his family? I would say so. If he could truly convert his poster dad -- quote -- "status" into a positive, poignant, living message to sports parents and their coaches, would this not serve the greater purpose than sitting in a jail cell?
This is simply an example of what I suggest is a more creative way for Mr. Junta, and his unfortunate experience, to impact on society. If you cannot accept this recommendation, this alternate jail sentence, I would ask, as stated in my memo, that you consider a minimum time to be served in a house of correction, with the balance of time suspended. Although it does not seem as meaningful and significant as my initial suggestion, it would be just and meritorious to allow Tom and his family some glimmer of hope for their survival. This was a mutual contact in combat between two men.
Your Honor, we have received over 150 letters from all over the state, all over the country and all over the world, in support of Mr. Junta and his family. I would like it paraphrase a couple of those for the court.
"Dear Judge Grabau. My name Garrett. I met you at my friend Tom Junta's trial in Courtroom 10b. As you know, I was at the Burbank rink when this whole thing happened. If you need to ask me any more questions, please call me. When I'm with Tom and Quinn, we do a lot of things. Tom takes us to the movies. He makes us lunch. He taught us how to use the weight ball. Tom taught us how to make fire in the wood stove in the garage. Tom did all of the garage for the three of us. We're pals. It is a place we hang out together."
"I gave him rabbits feet to bring to the trial, wishing him good luck. Tom is teaching us how to play darts. The best part about hanging out in the garage is just being together. We watch videos and DVDs all the time. He lets us pick out the movies. Tom loves his family very much and does everything for them. He likes doing all this. But even though I'm not really his family, he loves me and treats me like family, and I love him. Please let Tom come home so we can be a complete family."
"Tom was trying to get me and Quinny and Travis out of the rink, and this whole thing shouldn't have happened. Tom is a good person. He is the best I know. He spent all his time with us. What will we do if he isn't home? Quinn needs his dad more than anything. Tom makes everyone laugh and have some fun. Everyone likes to go to the Junta's house. Tom didn't mean for any of this to happen. Could you make it so that Tom comes home, and we can get back together the way it was? Please don't punish Tom for something he didn't mean and want to happen." On the day of this verdict, my client sat downstairs alone and wrote a couple of letters. The first one is to "Honey Bunch," that's his daughter, Kendall. And I would paraphrase that. "If you're reading this letter, that means I lost my case. I want to tell you how much I love you. How proud you have made me in the 17 years since I first saw you. I will miss you very, very much. But every night I will say, good night, Honey Bunchy, I love you. And every morning, I will say good morning, Honey Bunchy, I will be thinking of you. I will be thinking of you making the Eggs Benedict that we always enjoy. Well, I'm starting to cry now, so all I can say, except -- quote -- 'clean your room.' I love you. Dad."
The second letter, I'll paraphrase in closing. It says, "Hey, Quinn. I just thought I would write you and Kendall a letter. She has one of her own. First, pal, thanks for your help on this case. I know it must have been very hard for you. But remember, you told the truth, I did, and so did the Garrett man. Also, Quinn, I want it tell you how much I love you and how you make me proud to be your dad. Keep trying hard in school, pal. Hockey is supposed to be fun. But it's just a game. It takes brains, too, in life. Like I told KK, Kendall, every night I will say good night. Pal, I love you. And every morning, I will say morning, pal. What do you want for breakfast? "
Your honor, that summarizes my presentation and I think summarizes, in loud and clear words, what kind of a man Thomas Junta is. And I ask you to take that into consideration. If my client is able, he's asked to address the court and I'd like a second to speak with him.
THOMAS JUNTA: I'd just like to apologize for my actions and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
JUDGE CHARLES GRABAU, MIDDLESEX SUPERIOR COURT: The sentencing memoranda submitted by the parties, I've asked that they be docketed, and they were with me since they were filed and I had to read them and consider them.
I prepared my own sentencing memorandum, which I will file at the conclusion of the sentencing. I going to take a few minutes to read it into the record now.
In August 2000, the Middlesex County Grand Jury indicted the defendant, Thomas F. Junta, with the crime of manslaughter, pursuant to general law, chapter 265, section 13.
On January 11, 2002, a jury found the defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The crime of involun -- excuse me -- the crime of manslaughter is found at chapter 265, section 13. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, involuntary manslaughter is a felony, and it is not a lesser included offense of manslaughter. The verdict slip submitted to the jury reflected this. The verdict slip listed the crime of involuntary manslaughter separately and not as a lesser included offense.
Involuntary manslaughter represents a different theory of prosecution and is a different form of manslaughter under our common law. Involuntary manslaughter carries the same maximum penalty of 20 years in state prison, as does manslaughter.
This case has received a great deal of publicity. The media serve as an important function -- serve an important function in educating the public about our criminal justice system and how courts work. As a result of all of the publicity, I have received many letters from individuals from Massachusetts and from interested citizens from other states, commenting on the evidence. These individuals have suggested different forms of punishment for Mr. Junta.
Having acknowledged receipt of these letters, and the correspondence submitted by Mr. Junta's attorneys, Mr. Orlandi and Mr. O'Connor, with their memorandum of this position -- 156 letters, which I have read, those are the letters, and these are the letters that I received from citizens in Massachusetts and from all over the country.
I must remind counsel that cannon 3 of the Code Of Judicial Conduct states that a judge, and I -- quote -- "should be unswayed by partisan interest, public clamor or fear of criticism," -- closed quote. In other words, I have read the letters sent to me, but I cannot use those letters in considering what an appropriate sentence is for Mr. Junta. That includes letters submitted by the Commonwealth from Mrs. Matthews.
There is a distinction however in the letters that form the impact statement, because those are pursuant to a statute. And I may take into consideration the effect or impact of the crime -- that the crime has had on the family of the victim. I am troubled, however, by some of the letters submitted by defense counsel with the memorandum on this position.
I assume that you, Mr. Connor and Mr. Orlandi, have read the letters. The submission of the letters by you is, in effect, an endorsement of their contents. Some of these letters refer to Mr. Costin's past.
And by doing so, you, again, have attempted to reintroduce into the sentencing phase of this case, irrelevant information regarding the victim's past. These references to Mr. Costin's past are an attempt to shift the focus to the victim as the culprit and away from Mr. Junta. These references cheapen the value of human life. Needless to say, I have not considered these letters in sentencing.
I am also disturbed by the disingenuine description of Mr. Junta's character. From the outset of this case, it has been the strategy of the defense to introduce Mr. Costin's psychiatric record into evidence and to attempt to use it to demonstrate Mr. Costin's alleged propensity towards violence and alleged explosive and violent personality.
The defense failed to persuade me that it met its burden under the so-called Bishop Fuller (ph) Protocol and that the alleged information was admissible into evidence in this case. I recently learned that the July 5, 2000, incident at the Burbank Arena was not the first time that Mr. Junta struck another adult in front of minor children. Mr. Orlandi, you alluded to the domestic abuse incident. In 1991, his wife, Michelle Junta, petitioned the Charlestown District Court for protection from domestic abuse. The defendant in that case was her husband, Thomas Junta. Michelle Junta, in her affidavit of September 6, 1991, stated in her brief statement, and I quote -- "physical and verbal abuse caused to me by my husband, Thomas Junta. During this time, two small children, and a small girlfriend, watched as my husband was hitting me continuously. He was telling my children, don't worry, kids, it will be okay." -- Closed quote.
The temporary orders that Mr. Junta refrain from abuse and that he immediately leave and remain away from the household were extended by the judge until September 6, 1992.
I certainly understand the seriousness of this case. And the tragic consequences it has for the four Costin children and family. I also recognize the tragic effect that incarceration will have on the Junta family and their two minor children.
Before reading the letters of support on behalf of Mr. Junta, there was no doubt in my mind that he was -- that he has a loving family, that Mr. Junta is devoted to his children and that he is a hard working individual. Mr. Junta has many supporters in this community.
Massachusetts case law holds that a sentence should reflect the judge's careful assessment of several goals. Punishment, deterrence, protection of the public and rehabilitation. In making this assessment, a sentencing judge may consider many factors, which would not be relevant at trial, including hearsay information about the defendant's character, behavior and background.
This court's sentence is based on the nature and seriousness of the crime. Mr. Junta's minor criminal record, which I have footnoted in my sentencing memorandum -- his family background, education and work history. Special deterrence of others is not a factor in my sentencing. My sentence is not meant to be a message to anyone in the outside world.
In addition, I have consulted the sentencing guidelines and recognize that involuntary manslaughter, under these circumstances, falls within a 6a grid. The guidelines provide for a period of incarceration between three to five years. Nonetheless, these are guidelines. Although I generally try to impose a sentence within these guidelines, I find that there are several aggravating circumstances in this case. that must be considered in sentencing Mr. Junta.
In arriving at my sentence, I have reviewed the sentencing memoranda submitted by the parties and their arguments. I have carefully considered the defendant's memorandum on this position. I do not agree with defense characterization of the events of July 5, 2000. Contrary to the defendant's assertions, the jury concluded that Mr. Junta committed an unintentional, unlawful killing, as a result of a battery, that the defendant knew or should have known created a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would result to Mr. Costin.
The Commonwealth met its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Junta did not act in self-defense. This court does recognize as mitigating factors, that Mr. Junta cooperated fully with the investigating officers. That he wrote a statement describing the events that led up to the altercation, that he allowed himself to be photographed and that he has expressed remorse over his actions.
I think it's appropriate, however, to briefly summarize some of the evidence that the jury could have found after concluding that Mr. Junta was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
After the first altercation with Mr. Costin, Mr. Junta left the building, and waited outside for one or two minutes. Mrs. Blanchard, the assistant manager of the Burbank Arena, testified that she saw Mr. Junta reenter the building with a red, angry face and clenched fists. She stepped out to tell him that he had to leave. Mr. Junta kept walking and pushed her aside, into the wall of the control area. She received a bruise to her left forearm, which is illustrated in one of the photographs, Exhibit 33.
Mrs. Blanchard saw Mr. Junta enter the area in front of the skating rink, by the mental door -- metal door on the far right. She saw Mr. Junta raise his right arm downwards towards Mr. Costin. Mr. Costin's hand went up in front of Mr. Junta. At this point, Mrs. Blanchard went inside the control room to dial 9-1-1.
After two or three seconds, according her testimony, she again looked out and saw the men fighting just outside the doors. Both were punching back and forth. Mrs. Blanchard saw Mr. Junta's punch connect to Mr. Costin's face. She witnessed Mr. Junta throw him, Mr. Costin, down. Mr. Junta's left knee was on Mr. Costin's left shoulder. Mr. Junta held Mr. Costin's head in his left hand and repeatedly punched Mr. Costin's head on the left side.
Mrs. Blanchard screamed to Mr. Junta to stop as Mr. Junta repeatedly struck Mr. Costin. She testified that Mr. Junta punch Mr. Costin -- quote -- "many, many times" -- close quote.
Rachel, a ten-year-old child at the time of the altercation, witnessed the event from inside the snack bar. She testified that Mr. Junta tackled -- that's her word -- Mr. Costin and threw him to the floor. She saw Mr. Junta punch Mr. Costin three times. She testified that Mr. Costin straddled Mr. Junta and several people pulled Mr. Junta off of Mr. Costin.
Mr. Ryan Carr testified that he saw Mr. Junta punch Mr. Costin three final times and grabbed his head and pushed it -- or jammed it, those are his words -- into the floor. Although Mr. Costin threw punches at Mr. Junta, they did not connect. Mr. Carr had to pull Mr. Junta off of Mr. Costin. And by this time, Mr. Costin was motionless.
Mrs. Brings, a grandmother, would who had returned to the skating rink to pick up her grandson and friends, saw Mr. Junta lunge -- that was her word -- at Mr. Costin. She saw Mr. Junta on top of Mr. Costin and witnessed him hit Mr. Costin on the head several times.
Finally, Officer Murphy of the Reading Police Department testified that Mr. Junta stated that -- and I quote the testimony -- "I got the better of him. I got in a few more shots."
The forensic evidence addressed the testimony of the eyewitnesses as to the use of substantial force. The medical examiner, Dr. Kessler, testified that Mr. Costin suffered a traumatic injury to his left vertebral artery that caused the artery to sever. The victim, Mr. Costin, had a massively swollen brain, a 7 inch hemorrhage to the left of the temporal lobe, a deep hemmorhage to the area of his left front shoulder, a deep hemorrhage up and down the spinal canal, torn and stretched ligaments of the posterior neck, and a large contusion of the left ear, and other bruises. It was the opinion of the medical examiner that Mr. Costin died from blunt force trauma.
The evidence presented at trial was that this crime -- and I'm going to mention the aggravating circumstances now -- that this crime occurred at a skating rink in the middle of the afternoon on July 5, 2000. Minor children and several adults witnessed the defendant repeatedly strike Mr. Costin, which resulted in his death. Three of Mr. Costin's four children witnessed their father beaten to death. Quinlan Junta, then ten years old, also saw his father beat a man to death. This incident lasted for sufficient period of time to allow several adults the opportunity to scream or yell to Mr. Junta to stop beating Mr. Costin.
As a result of this crime, Mr. Costin, then 40 years old and a single father is dead. His four minor children have been deprived of his society and companionship. John Costin, 67 years old, has lost a son, and is raising the four minor children. Mary Barbuzzi has lost her brother, Michael Costin.
The commonwealth has recommended a sentence of six to ten years of incarceration at MCI-Cedar Junction. Mr. Orlandi and Mr. O'Connor, on behalf of Mr. Junta, have recommend a suspended sentence with an order of intense probation to supervised community service. In the alternative, they recommend a split sentence to the house of corrections of 12 months with six months served and the balance suspended with a period of probation.
I find neither of the defense counsel's recommendations to be realistic or a just punishment under the circumstances of this case. I find that the commonwealth's recommendation to be lenient and most generous. I contemplated exceeding the commonwealth's recommendation, but I have decided not to.
After consideration of the factors, it is ordered that Thomas F. Junta serve a committed sentence of six to ten years MCI-Cedar Junction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Junta, please rise on indictment number 20001000001.
It is ordered by the court, after duly considering your offense, you you be punished by confinement at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prison for a term not exceeding ten years, no less than six years. You are hereby notified that you have a right to appeal the sentence within ten days of this date to the appellate division of this court. You are hereby notified that you have a right to appeal this conviction within 30 days of this date. Any time awaiting trial will accompany you upon your (UNINTELLIGIBLE). A victim witness fee has been levied against you and will be deducted from your wages at said institution.
Recess please, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
GRABAU: All rise.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: There you have it: the sentencing of Thomas Junta, who after he heard his sentence, turned and waved to family members who were there to support him. He will serve six to ten years in state prison in Massachusetts, that in the wake of the beating death, the involuntary manslaughter conviction of taking the life of Michael Costin in July 2000 at a hockey practice.
Let's bring our Brian Delaney, who is standing by in Cambridge to help us cover this case.
Brian, in listening to this judge, first we heard statements from the judge, statements how the judge was interpreting things, statements from family members of the Costin family, and then we heard from the defense attorney. But listening to the judge's interpretation, it sounds like he wasn't pleased with the defense at all. There were things that it sounds like the defense submitted that actually kind of ticked off the judge and encouraged him to do the maximum what the prosecution was asking for.
DELANEY: Very much so. It seems like this jury that passed a verdict on involuntary manslaughter two weeks ago was more sympathetic to the defense's argument that Judge Charles Grabau, Judge Charles Grabau saying that the defense assertion that Thomas Junta acted in this notorious brawl back in July 5 with only the force necessary to fight off the attacker, Michael Costin, the judge clearly not buying that Thomas Junta had only thrown three punches, as the defense asserted, using a level of minimum force there, but saying he believed that prosecution and the prosecution's witnesses, that many, many blows had been thrown, many, many blows thrown in front of many children, who watched all this.
The judge also saying that the past of Thomas Junta was relevant here, and he brought it into his sentencing. In 1991, Thomas Junta's wife brought a restraining order against him for domestic abuse. The judge could have decided not to weigh that in his sentencing, but he decided instead to weigh it in his sentencing, and that was very important because the judge saying back in July 5, 2000, his brawl over the children's hockey practice was not the first time, said the judge, that Thomas Junta had committed an act of violence, this time against his own wife, in front of children.
Now, of course, speaking of children, hard to say just how, much the really devastating and poignant testimony from Costin's two sons, about an hour or so ago, in Middlesex superior court, how much that entered into his decision. That was very powerful testimony, like this statement here, from Michael Costin Jr. about the father he lost and loved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. COSTIN: Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson. Let the world know that a person can't do what Thomas Junta did to my dad, to my family, and to me. For my brothers, for my sister, we all want Thomas Junta to go to prison for as long as your honor can put him there. Please punish Thomas Junta, and do not allow him soon to get out of prison and ruin another family's life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DELANEY: Judge Charles Grabau here not quite following that young boy's recommendation of a maximum sentence. Thomas Junta could have gone to jail or 20 years, the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter. But instead, the judge following the prosecution's recommendation of six to ten years, and the judge thereby doubling what the state recommends for involuntary manslaughter, which is three to five years. So Judge Charles Grabau, not quite throwing the book at Thomas Junta, but a severe sentence: six to ten years.
KAGAN: He came very close to throwing the book. You mention it could have been up to 20 years. But the prosecution was asking for six to ten. The defense was asking for probation. But it sounded like the judge, when he was speaking, was particularly moved by the involvement of children here, not just the fact that there were children who witnessed what happened to Michael Costin back in July of 200, but also going back to that 1991 restraining order with Thomas Junta, and that that incident also happened in front of his own children. It sounds like the judge was very moved by the involvement of kids.
DELANEY: Absolutely, that's been the powerful emotional content of this from the beginning. The defense tried to portray this as a fight between two men that got out of hand. But what's always made such a difference here of course, is that this was a fight, that whether it was simply something that got out of hand between two men, it was two men fighting in front of many, many children, including their own children. Thomas Junta's son witnessed it and Michael Costin's son witnessed it.
KAGAN: You mention emotion. Thomas Junta very emotional in court today, I think the most emotional we have seen him throughout this entire process.
DELANEY: How can anyone not be moved by this testimony? But it really was extraordinary to see Thomas Junta, this 275-pound, 6'1" man, crying, wiping tears away. He had been led into the courtroom in handcuffs and leg irons, having been in jail for the past two weeks, since his conviction two weeks ago, and you saw him repeatedly today wiping away tears, lowering his head, obviously, himself, like everyone else who saw it this is the courtroom and really around the world, because people are watching this and in this country and well beyond it, who could help but be moved by the testimony of these children. One of whom said, young Michael Costin, "Whatever the sentence here, we are sentenced to life. We have lost our father forever."
KAGAN: It was very sad to see those Costin children up there on the stand, and Junta was emotional indeed today. But have you to wonder where those tears were when his son was up on the stand forced to testify in defense of his father and when he took the stand. You did not see that sense of remorse and emotion on those two days.
DELANEY: Well, you know, when his son, Quinlan, took the stand, what was poignant there, was how Thomas Junta really, I think, tried to keep it together for his son. There were repeated moments in that courtroom where the son would glance over at his dad, and his dad, Thomas Junta, would look back a him kind of reassuringly. So I think Thomas Junta certainly, hard to imagine, the depth of emotion that he has been going through for all of this, whatever you think of him. He has add lot of supporters in the courtroom.
A lot of supporters say that, maybe not a perfect man, not a very educated man, but a loving father of two and a hard working truck driver who the day of this killing had gotten up at 2:00 in the mourning to do a 12-hour shift as a truck driver. His son, being brought to the witness stand, had to be absolutely devastated.
This is just simply an situation where you are going to find, as the judge has pointed out, and as defense attorney pointed out, any winners. It is a tragedy all around, obviously.
KAGAN: No winners. Two families. Big losses. Bill Delaney in Cambridge, thank you very much.
As you mentioned, Thomas Junta receiving a lot of support. The judge made note of that before he handed out his sentencing. And yet the judge clearly disturbed by the incident that too place in July of 2000 when Michael Costin lost his life in this fight, in this hockey rink, in front of all these children.
Once again, Thomas Junta going to state prison for six to 10 years, exactly what the prosecution had asked for.
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