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Son: Father repeatedly hit hockey dad who died

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A 12-year-old boy whose father beat
another man to death at a youth hockey practice defended his dad on
the witness stand Tuesday, saying he saw him land only three quick
blows.

Thomas Junta fidgeted with his hands and sometimes bit his lip
as his son, Quinlan, testified at the manslaughter trial. The
sixth-grader's eyes could just barely be seen over the microphone
in the witness box.

Junta, 44, has said he acted in self-defense when he beat
Michael Costin, 40, into unconsciousness after an argument over
rough play at their sons' hockey practice in Reading in 2000.

The boy's testimony was consistent with that of two prosecution
witnesses who said they saw Junta hit Costin in the head three
times. But two other prosecution witnesses said Junta landed many
more blows -- at least 10, by one account.

Quinlan's version of events also supported his father's claim
that Costin swung at him and jumped on his back.

"I saw my dad, and then I saw Mr. Costin on his back," Quinlan
said. "I saw him flip (Costin) over his shoulders. He went on the
floor."

"I just, like, stood there," Quinlan said.

He said his father was on his knees, leaning over the prostrate
Costin.

Costin "was trying to punch and kick him, my dad, to get him
off," Quinlan said. "My dad hit him three quick times, really
quick."

On cross-examination, prosecutor Sheila Calkins asked Quinlan if
he was upset after watching the fatal fight.

"Yes, because I'd never seen anything else like that before,"
he said.

Calkins then asked: "You yelled out to your dad, `Stop!' didn't
you?"

"Yes," the boy answered, before Calkins swiftly moved on and
wrapped up her questioning.

The case has focused attention on the occasional violence of
parents at youth sporting events. Quinlan's testimony was carried
live on national cable networks, though his face wasn't shown on
camera.

Prosecutors say Junta, a 270-pound truck driver, overpowered the
160-pound Costin, who died a day after the beating.

Ryan Carr, a 21-year-old college hockey player who helped pull
Junta off the other man, testified that Costin threw the first
punch. He also said Junta appeared to stop fighting when Costin
made a defensive move.

Virginia Brings, whose grandson was at the rink that day,
testified earlier Tuesday for the prosecution that she pleaded with
Junta to stop hitting Costin, and saw him strike at least 10 blows.
She said she told him: "Think of your children."

"I remember yelling to Mr. Junta, `He's not responding! He's
not responding! Don't hit him anymore!"' Brings testified.

Defense attorney Thomas Orlandi Jr. questioned whether she was
certain of the number of punches Junta threw, given that she was so
upset.

"It's something that I'll never forget," Brings said without
hesitation. "He went on and on. ... I remember thinking at the
time -- he's either going to kill this man or he's going to have
brain damage."

The fights were witnessed by about a dozen children, including
Junta's son and Costin's three sons.

"The children were crying," Brings said. "I can remember
hearing one little voice say, `Daddy, don't do it, don't do it."'

Quinlan described the rough play during what was supposed to be
a non-contact stick practice that provoked the first of two
arguments between his father and Costin.

Quinlan said older opponents started hitting him and his friends
when they started to outscore them. He said he heard his father
tell Costin, who was supervising the practice, to control the
players.

"He said, `Hockey's about hitting,"' Quinlan recalled. "My
dad said, "That's (expletive). It's about having fun."

In an alcove between two locker rooms, Costin and Junta had
their first fight, mostly pushing and pulling at each other,
witnesses said. Junta left the rink, but when he returned minutes
later, the second, deadly fight began.

Junta will testify when the trial resumes Wednesday, Orlandi
said.