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Girl first of several children expected to testify

1/8/2002

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- A 12-year-old testified Monday she
watched as one hockey father pummeled another, then saw the beaten
man lying motionless.

Rachel Labarge was the first of several children expected to
take the stand in the manslaughter trial of Thomas Junta. Junta is
accused of beating Michael Costin to death after the two argued
over rough play at their sons' hockey practice.

Junta said he was defending himself. In a police interview after
the fight that was played Monday, the 270-pound Junta described
himself and the 160-pound Costin as "two dopey guys" arguing.

When asked at the end of the interview if he wished to add
anything, Junta replied: "Other than I wish it never happened, no,
and I hope the guy's fine."

Costin, 40, never regained consciousness He was declared dead the day after the July 5, 2000, fight.

Labarge, who was scheduled to start a figure skating lesson
after the game, said she saw the men arguing and shoving each
other.

Tossing her ponytail from time to time during testimony, she
said Junta started to leave the building after the shoving but
turned around before going out the front door. She said Junta
tackled Costin and threw him to the ice.

"There were several punches to the face," Rachel said. "I saw
about three ... He was pretty much straddled over Mr. Costin"

Several people pulled Junta off Costin, who had a bloody nose,
Labarge said. A prosecutor asked if Costin was moving.

"No," Rachel said.

Composed throughout her testimony, the girl did not waver when
defense attorney Thomas Orlandi Jr. asked if she was sure of what
she saw.

Her testimony differed somewhat from that of other witnesses who
said Junta went into the parking lot before returning to the
building, rather than turning back at the front door.

Ryan Carr, 21, a hockey player who was practicing at the rink,
said he saw Costin throw the first punch when Junta returned after
the initial shoving match. He said Junta blocked the punch and
overpowered Costin, pinning him to the floor.

Carr said Costin was trying to throw punches, kicking and
flailing. He said he saw Junta punch him three or four times.
Costin then began shielding his head, and then "Mr. Junta pushed
Mr. Costin's head into the mat."

"He grabbed him by the side of his head and jammed his head
into the matting," Carr said.