Convicted Hockey Dad Killer to get only 3- 5 years?
January 11, 2002 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Convicted Hockey Dad Killer to get only 3- 5 years? i know he only threw a few punches, but he was 275 lbs and his victim was 165 lbs. I'm sorry, but killing a guy nearly half your size in front of children - in front of both of their children even - is reason enough for throwing the book at this thug. 20 years = 10 years if he stays cool in the pokie - a pittance if you're the victims kids. Hopefully the Mass judge will make an example out of this totally unneccessary tragedy.
posted by tsarfan (48 comments total)

 
Thug? Its not like he planned a murder and killed someone in cold blood. Its involuntary manslaughter plain and simple. Lets save some cells for the real killers out there.
posted by skallas at 5:10 PM on January 11, 2002


Thug = big fat creep who beats down someone over nothing and murders him in perfectly good warm blood with his bare hands infront of kids.

Involuntary manslaughter = legal ho-haw to try to parse the gray areas that, admitedly, exist in our wide spectrum of killing one another.

If you need room for real(?) killers, I say let some of those poor saps doing more than 5 years for innocuous non-violent drug crimes step instead of this neanderthal
posted by tsarfan at 5:29 PM on January 11, 2002


Well,the involuntary manslaughter verdict is pretty consistent with the information I've read about the case.

Involuntary manslaughter means that, "with criminal negligence, he cause[s] the death of another person." This is from WA state RCW 9A.32.070, which is manslaughter in the second degree (which, as far as I can tell, is equivalent to MA's involuntary manslaughter).

Criminal negligence means (RCW 9A.08.010) that "[...] he fails to be aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his failure to be aware of such substantial risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable man would exercise in the same situation."
In other words, he didn't realize that what he was doing (striking the victim in the head) could cause death or great bodily harm, and his failure to realize this makes it criminal negligence.

Recklessness, while we're at it, means (parahrasing) that the individual did realize there was a substantial risk, but disregarded such risk. Causing the death of another due to recklessness is manslaughter in the first degree (WA RCW 9A.32.060).

Murder (9A.32.030 and 9A.32.050 for first & second degree) requires intent. Based on what I've heard, it seems pretty hard to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.

My guess is that most of the wrangling was on whether he acted with recklessness, or just criminal negligence.

FWIW, the size difference may have affected the proceedings more than is immediately obvious, due to the possible disparity of force between the attacker and victim (disparity of force means that one party has a greater ability to, basically, inflict damage on the other, either due to differing size, weapons, known training or numbers). Since the killer is much larger than his victim, his claim of self defense is more difficult to prove, since he is already on the high end of the disparity of force.
posted by doorsnake at 5:46 PM on January 11, 2002


First off thug is traditionally a term for a low-level career criminal, not some guy acting out of passion. Second, the main reason we have so many non-violent drug offenders in prison is because people have no problem with inappropriate and harsh sentencing, which I might add is exactly what you're advocating here.
posted by skallas at 5:52 PM on January 11, 2002


You folks are aware, are you not, that the 165 lb. guy started the fight?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:53 PM on January 11, 2002


"You folks are aware, are you not, that the 165 lb. guy started the fight?"

Really? So you were there and saw the whole thing?

Witnesses' testimony differed as to who started it.

"...rink worker Nancy Blanchard said an angry Junta re-entered the rink and headed straight for Costin. She said he pushed her out of the away when she told him to leave. "

...

"Junta testified he tried to avoid fighting Costin, and only fought back after the 156-pound Costin knocked him over with a 'sucker punch'"

--Fox News

I guess they should have just come to you to get the correct version, and saved everyone a whole lot of time.

However, regardless of who started the fight, this guy beat another man to death. Are you attempting to excuse him?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:07 PM on January 11, 2002


You folks are aware, are you not, that the 165 lb. guy started the fight?

And was kicking violently with sharpened hockey skates. (For a test, go down to your local rink, borrow a sharpened skate from someone and thrash the blade against your unprotected face.)
posted by HTuttle at 6:09 PM on January 11, 2002


"And was kicking violently with sharpened hockey skates. (For a test, go down to your local rink, borrow a sharpened skate from someone and thrash the blade against your unprotected face.)"

--

" Junta had a 4-inch scratch on his face, a ripped shirt, cuts on his arms and scratches on his legs from where he said Costin kicked him with his skates. "

--Fox News


I would kick at somebody a hundred pounds heavier than I, too, if he was straddling my chest while he pounded my head on the floor and punched me in the face.

Why are you people defending a killer?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:17 PM on January 11, 2002


It doesn't look like the deceased was a mere defenseless innocent, here. Nevertheless, he's the one who ended up dead. Whatever he did, he's beyond justice.

I think "thug" is appropriate for someone who gets involved in an ugly, deadly fight; the original Thugs were thieves who murdered their victims as a matter of ritual.

Involuntary manslaughter sounds about right. For 2nd degree murder (voluntary manslaughter) they'd have had to prove that he intended to cause grievous bodily harm, but this has always looked like a spontaneous event.
posted by dhartung at 6:18 PM on January 11, 2002


I haven't seen a picture of these guys, but in a fight between a 165 lb guy and a 275 lb guy, I'd lay odds on the thinner guy any day. I'm about 210 and I get out of breath just walking up the stairs to my apartment. Unless that's 275 lbs of muscle (and that would have to be an awful lot of muscle), that guy sounds like a tub of lard.
posted by bingo at 6:19 PM on January 11, 2002


You folks are aware, are you not, that the 165 lb. guy started the fight?

Hell yeah we are, and we're all wondering why the fatter guy just didn't shoot the little guy. This looks like a perfect spot for a handgun. I'm wondering why Charlton Heston and the NRA hasn't started demanding that hockey dads carry handguns for just such an emergency.

I mean, you're implying the 165 lb guy deserved to die for what he did, so why mess around. This is America, after all.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 6:21 PM on January 11, 2002


mr_crash_davis - They're not defending Junta, they're defending the decision.
posted by NortonDC at 6:22 PM on January 11, 2002


" They're not defending Junta, they're defending the decision."

If that's so, then I'm way out of line.

However, I don't see it that way. I see SDB with a one-line remark that the little guy started it, and I see HTuttle excusing beating a man to death because the man doing the beating got scratches on his legs during the fatal beating.

If I'm off-base here, I'd like to hear why.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:29 PM on January 11, 2002


MeTa
posted by NortonDC at 6:29 PM on January 11, 2002


mr_crash_davis - They aren't disputing that he did wrong and deserves to be punished, they are saying that his conviction on the manslaughter charge is appropriate. I don't see how that equates to defending Junta.
posted by NortonDC at 6:33 PM on January 11, 2002


Assuming that the small guy started it (I recall contradictory testimony on this point), the question then becomes whether or not the small guy was a sufficient threat to the big guy to justify his total response.

For example, suppose the little guy slashed at him with the skates and the big guy hit him until he went down and ceased to be any threat, and then the big guy walked away. That's a clearer case of self defense, but the testimony I recall doesn't make it clear that that's what happened. Was the big guy's intent to beat up the little guy, or to ultimately escape? The key point for self defense is that the defender's response must end when there is no longer a viable threat (based on the defender's knowledge). From what I've heard, that doesn't seem to be the case (i.e., that Junta's actions went beyond what was necessary to defend himself). It seems reasonably clear that it wasn't murder.

dhartung sez: For 2nd degree murder (voluntary manslaughter) : To clarify: "volutary manslaughter" is homicide due to recklessness. Murder in the second degree is, basically, homicide with intent but without premeditation, and murder 1 is intent and premeditation. There are additional criminal acts that are manslaughter 1, murder 1 and murder 2, but these are the basic ones.
posted by doorsnake at 6:38 PM on January 11, 2002


NortonDC, I see that you see it that way.

For what it's worth, I agree. Involuntary manslaughter does seem appropriate. I just don't see how you read that from their remarks.

Maybe I'm just daft.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:40 PM on January 11, 2002


I would kick at somebody a hundred pounds heavier than I, too, if he was straddling my chest while he pounded my head on the floor and punched me in the face.

I'd avoid the fight in the first place. Rather than provoke it.
posted by HTuttle at 6:43 PM on January 11, 2002


What is worse: this case or a drunk driver who kills someone in an 'accident'? Neither set out to kill someone, it really isn't what they expected would result from their actions. He has destroyed many dreams, including his own.
posted by Mack Twain at 7:05 PM on January 11, 2002


From what I've read both guys were assholes, and though nobody deserved to die it sounds like the dead guy was asking for a good knock to the head. I find the most fascinating thing about this case is the irony of a man who begins by protesting too much violence and ends up killing someone as events unfold. 3-5 years? Sounds about right to me.
posted by holycola at 7:15 PM on January 11, 2002


The crime of this is that this death was completely avoidable!! They get into a fight over a kids hockey game??? He walks away and then goes back in to supposedly get his other child and gets into another fight!?!? Couldn't he have just not sent his kids back to the rink or called the manager and complained about how it was being handled?

Does anyone get the irony and the sheer stupidity of coming to blows over a game because it was too rough!

This guy is just a testosterone poisoned idiot who couldn't control himself and killed someone.

I watched his testimony. Junta's story is that he started hitting the victum because he had a hold of his wrist and he(Junta) couldn't get away. Oh yeah, Contas was flat on his back at the time. The skates you are refering to were on Contas feet. I doubt, even if he did make contact with the skates, that Junta ever felt that his life was in danger. Think about, a 165lb man flat on his back holding a 270lb man by the wrist who is on his knees and he couldn't get away.

Yeah, right! I wonder what will happen to the next person who pisses him off?
posted by bas67 at 7:18 PM on January 11, 2002


As a little guy, my sympathies are generally with Costin. And as someone who has umpired Little League games and had to deal with psychotic parents, I'm willing to believe the worst about Junta. Still, from this distance, I'd say the sentence is appropriate.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the valorization of violence in hockey & the way this sport in particular is used to inculcate macho attitudes in little kids.
posted by barkingterrier at 7:18 PM on January 11, 2002


Drunk driving is easily avoidable too!!
posted by bas67 at 7:21 PM on January 11, 2002


They both get my sympathies, a horrible situation for all involved. They both had criminal records, just for the record.
posted by tomplus2 at 7:28 PM on January 11, 2002


From what I understand this was the killer's first offense, and even though he could be sent away for 20 years, the usual sentence is 3-5.

I don't care what *form* of so-called manslaughter this guy got away with. This was not two guys caught up in the heat of the moment, Junta left the scene and came back and then killed his victim.

This was not at a hockey game, this was at a practice, where apparently Junta claimed that Contas was allowing the kids to be too physical - so Junta got (too) physical to prove his point.

What went down was totally avoidable and although I am not saying that Contas couldn't have handled it better, he was running the practice where his kids were also a part of and if some fellow parent wants to gripe, Contas should be allowed to fire back without being pummeled TO DEATH!

Guys like Junta belong in prison for a long time. We put guys like this in prison because we dont want them killing any one else - either spontaneously or after devising a plan.

This is not about whether the jury brought back the correct verdict in accordance to the correct crime, this is about whether the judge should put a man in jail for a couple of years or if he should put him under the jail for a good chunk of his life.

I think if a guy goes to a rink to coach a practice, he should be allowed to go home alive.
posted by tsarfan at 7:52 PM on January 11, 2002


British people..

Did you notice that the killer looks exactly like Barry Evans from Eastenders? Just thought I'd point it out.
posted by wackybrit at 7:58 PM on January 11, 2002


HELLO

America is at War... Remember?
posted by DragonBoy at 8:16 PM on January 11, 2002


As is too often the case in America, the punk got off easy. I am in the lardish realm of the perp and my best friend is close to the size of the deceased. Granted, if he runs around like a hummingbird there's no way I have a chance (huff, puff) but in toe to toe combat, it certainly is way out of the realm of a fair fight. They were both stupid to fight over a hockey game (one wishes parents showed anything close to that intensity over academics) but the murderer knew what he was doing. I'm sure this slap on the wrists will be comfort to this kid who now has neither a mother nor father.
posted by owillis at 8:27 PM on January 11, 2002


to quote doorsnake: Criminal negligence means (RCW 9A.08.010) that "[...] he fails to be aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his failure to be aware of such substantial risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable man would exercise in the same situation."

The vagueness of this boggles the mind:

Doesn't throwing a punch constitute a wrongful act?
It seems to me you that if something is illegal (oh like say...assault) then it's probably "wrongful."

What constitutes gross deviation as opposed to a minor deviation or a substantial-but-not-quite-gross deviation?

Would a reasonable man be throwing punches in the first place?
posted by juv3nal at 8:54 PM on January 11, 2002


The skates you are refering to were on Contas feet. I doubt, even if he did make contact with the skates, that Junta ever felt that his life was in danger.

Well, just because the skates were on his feet, doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. If I'm wrestling with some person on the ground and that person has skates on, my fear is that something like this might happen (warning, graphic photo of Clint Malarchuk's injury from 13 years ago).

That said, I agree that what Junta did was terrible and he should be punished. I also agree that the 3-5 year term seems about right.
posted by Grum at 9:23 PM on January 11, 2002


America is at War... Remember?

HELLO

Other things have not ceased to happen because of the war. I'm giving you a yellow card for being about 6000 miles off-topic.
posted by phalkin at 9:54 PM on January 11, 2002


I don't care what *form* of so-called manslaughter this guy got away with.

That's the problem with you isn't it? You want to purposely ignore the situation, law, and intent so you can equate this guy with any number of murder one convicts. Sorry, your appeal to emotion and 'i don't care' attitude is exactly why we have courts to begin with.
posted by skallas at 11:30 PM on January 11, 2002


but the murderer knew what he was doing.

Umm, it wasn't established that he 'knew what he was doing' e.g. murdering someone. Nor that he wanted to kill. Nor that he has any experience in how to kill someone, that's why we aren't looking at premeditative murder charges here.

I'm sure this slap on the wrists will be comfort to this kid who now has neither a mother nor father.


Even the death penatly for Junta wouldn't bring the kid's dad back. I really don't see what you mean by this other than a typical "pull at your heartstrings" ploy. After the obligatory wrongful death lawsuit the kid's family will be able to receive whatever they can get out of Junta when he's out instead of waiting 20+ years for him to make more than 10 cents a week in prison. See, there's even economic benefits in fair sentancing.
posted by skallas at 11:49 PM on January 11, 2002


a mentally ill woman kills her children and she should die. a man pummels another man to death over a hockey game and he should get 3 to 5 years. ok.
posted by tolkhan at 12:00 AM on January 12, 2002


I really don't see what you mean by this other than a typical "pull at your heartstrings" ploy

I'd like to see him in jail for the rest of his life.
posted by owillis at 1:23 AM on January 12, 2002


I don't know all of the details, but Contis was a hockey player. Hockey players fight all the time, it being a part of the game and all. I don't know how many of you are fighters (I'm guessing not many), but hockey players, boxers, people who fight a lot and therefore have lost all the fear associated with physical confrontation don't give a shit about 100 lbs. I'm one of them. And please save the "fighting is wrong" arguments for another day, the fact is that I weigh 175 lbs and I don't care if a guy's 300 lbs, big, small, it doesn't matter, weight is irrelevant, really. If a guy starts a fight with me I'm going to knock him the fuck out. Anyone who's ever been in a fight knows the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Little guys knock out big guys all the time. So forget about the size difference.

I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that Contis started the confrontation, given that Junta's complaint was that the practice was too rough in the first place. At the very least, Contis was a willing participant in the fight, trading blows with a parent who was expressing concern for his children's welfare. Not to mention that Contis had knives on his feet ("skates" is too cute a word; those fuckers are sharp) and was using them as weapons with potentially deadly force.

That's not to say that Contis deserved to die, you fucking moron, but only that he wasn't an innocent victim of an unprovoked assault by a "thug". That's oversimplification at best. The whole incident was pretty ridiculous, and both guys are to blame for their involvement, but some of you are willing to condemn Junta to life in prison because of his weight. Christ.

Contis died from a ruptured artery near his spine, not a concussion, not a crushed skull. Junta didn't beat him as he lied there unconscious and unresponsive until his face caved in and his brain fell out. If Junta isn't a "fighter," and he was attacked by Contis, fueled by adrenaline, his natural fight-or-flight response or what have you, coupled with his instinctual aggression associated with protecting his children from injury, it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility that he simply didn't know his own strength. I certainly don't believe that Junta stormed after Contis with murderous intent and purposely killed him in front of a large crowd of onlookers thinking that he'd get away with it.

Hell, it could just have easily gone the other way. Accidents are funny that way. If Contis had landed, say, an "unlucky punch" and Junta had fallen dead on the ice, how many of you would call Contis a 165 lb "testosterone poisoned idiot" who deserved to go to jail for the rest of his life?
posted by David Dark at 4:25 AM on January 12, 2002


It seems to come down to the classic tension between the individual and society: the justice of the punishment for the individual, against the adequacy of the deterrance factor in protecting society (i.e. me) from a repetition by him and others.

Since I'm never likely to find myself in the position of having recently beaten someone half my size to death over a trivial matter, I'm selfishly going to err on the side of public (i.e. my) good and declare the law is, once again, an ass. Call me Mr Bumble if you like.
posted by RichLyon at 4:29 AM on January 12, 2002


...that's "deterrence". I will manually spell check, I will manually spell check...
posted by RichLyon at 4:46 AM on January 12, 2002


The hockey coach sounds like a model citizen- i wish more people were like him.

At this point though, Junta's sentence will only deprive one more child of his father. Junta saw his child being hurt, and acted out of instinct to protect or punish what he saw as the reason his child was being hurt.

"Forgive others that you might also be forgiven."
posted by Counselco at 7:11 AM on January 12, 2002


"...the jury chose to believe the version of events by a grandmother who was at the rink to watch her grandson skate. Put on the stand by the prosecution, Virginia Blanchard, who did not know either man, described Mr. Junta as out of control, punching the smaller man repeatedly, even when he was clearly winning. "It's something I'll never forget," she said in testimony that riveted the courtroom. "He went on and on, and I kept hollering and saying, 'Stop,' and I was thinking the whole time he's either going to kill this man or he was going to have brain damage."

Junta had the right to defend himself, but only with reasonable force. This eye-witness makes it clear Junta's actions went far beyond that standard.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:12 AM on January 12, 2002


They both had criminal records, just for the record.

Sorry Tomplus2, but I have to jump on this one. So What? So bloody often in media and court this factoid about someone is pitched as a claim whose worth is self-evident. It isn't. There are a lot of different kinds of crimes, and 80% of them are usually irrelevant to the charge being levelled against someone at the time the record is invoked. If I'm charged with trespassing during an environmental protest, does that have bearing on a trial for embezzelment or child molestation? Not in my mind - maybe you can convince me otherwise.

In the desperate race to contribute facts to a discussion, relevancy all too often gets forgotten.
posted by holycola at 9:56 AM on January 12, 2002


a mentally ill woman kills her children and she should die. a man pummels another man to death over a hockey game and he should get 3 to 5 years. ok.

Actually, that makes sense to me.
posted by bingo at 10:57 AM on January 12, 2002


holycola said: In the desperate race to contribute facts to a discussion, relevancy all too often gets forgotten.


Actually, in this particular case, the victim's history of violent confrontations does play a role. Costin had a history of psychiatric problems and a criminal record that includes assaulting police officers. This would tend to make a jury believe that Costin did indeed start the fight.

If Costin instigated physical contact, then self-defense comes into play. The medical examiners testified that the artery tear could happen with minimal force. Ergo, it begins to look like an unfortunate accident, which could have been avoided, had the defendant not returned to the rink after leaving the first time.

Is Junta responsible? Absolutely. He made the decision to return to what he know was a hostile situation. He was no doubt angry and not as rational as he would have been in a normal state. When attacked, he responded with force that was overwhelming and inappropriate. Because of that, a man died and numerous children, including those of both men, were witness to it.

But it wasn't murder. I don't think that premeditation or criminal intent could be proven. I think the jury made the right decision. I'm glad I'm not the sentencing judge though, I'd hate to have to make this call.
posted by dejah420 at 11:49 AM on January 12, 2002


Probation, community-service, and let him continue to be a father & husband. The jury, I believe, reached the best possible conclusion. The dead guy sounded like a wacko who was just itching to cause trouble, and he did. The death was NOT intentional in Junta's part. Remember also -- don't know if others think it relevant -- but Contis did NOT die right there in front of everyone; he was, if memory serves, taken to a hospital and died the next day. The impact on the bystanders & children can't be the same as, say, if a crazed gunman walked in and blew the heads off of some people. My two cents.
posted by davidmsc at 2:37 PM on January 12, 2002


"Forty-year-old Michael Costin, a carpenter who weighed 156 pounds, was left unconscious on a rubber mat. He died the next day of injuries so severe that a medical expert said his head was nearly severed from his body."
posted by Carol Anne at 2:58 PM on January 12, 2002


From Carol Anne's link:

Inadvertently in the hallway yesterday, Thomas Junta found himself face-to- face with Gus Costin, the father of his victim. The older man reached out to touch Thomas Junta's shoulder, telling him, "I don't have any animosity toward you. I don't hate you." Junta, Gus Costin said, nodded and put his hand out. As the two men shook hands, Costin said, "I forgive you." Costin suggested yesterday that after he is released from prison, Junta might consider working to educate other parents about what can happen when tempers rage at children's sporting events.

How's that for turning the other cheek? What a stud.

...a medical expert said his head was nearly severed from his body.

From a fistfight? Was his neck broken? Was there a major lasceration across the throat or neck? What the hell is this guy talking about?
posted by David Dark at 4:38 PM on January 12, 2002


The dead guy keeps getting lighter, and the live guy keeps getting heavier. Wierd.
posted by thirteen at 10:37 PM on January 12, 2002


"The dead guy keeps getting lighter, and the live guy keeps getting heavier."

Obvious biological reasons here which need not be stated.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2002


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