Originally created 01/24/02

Siblings of hockey dad say killing was 'tragic accident'



BOSTON -- The brother of a hockey dad convicted in the fatal beating of another father called the death "a tragic accident" and said he hopes a judge will show compassion in sentencing.

Daniel Junta and Barbara Tracy, the brother and sister of Thomas Junta, spoke Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." It was the first time Junta's family has spoken publicly about the case, which became a symbol of parental violence in youth sports.

Thomas Junta, 44, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Jan. 11 in the death of Michael Costin, 40. They fought after Junta objected to rough play during a pickup hockey game in Reading in July 2000. Costin was supervising his three sons, Junta's son and several other boys on the ice.

Junta faces anywhere from probation to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Friday.

Tracy said her brother had been a "sports father" since his two children, now ages 12 and 17, were small.

"There's never, ever been any problems," she said, saying the confrontation between her brother and Costin stemmed from "a very bad set of circumstances."

"I'm sorry Mr. Costin passed away - that was terrible - but I would want (the judge) to understand that he is a good man, a good father," Tracy said.

"I would just ask the judge to have compassion for Tom," Daniel Junta said. "I think this was a tragic accident."

Thomas Junta's lawyer, Thomas Orlandi Jr., has called him a "gentle giant." Orlandi, who also appeared on "Good Morning America," said he had not finalized his sentencing recommendation.

Junta's brother and sister said that since his conviction, Junta has tried to reassure them.

"He just keeps telling us that he'll be fine," Tracy said.