CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- A hockey dad testified that he acted in self-defense during a fatal scuffle with a man after their sons' practice, saying he landed three off-balance punches before he walked away not knowing the victim was seriously hurt.
Thomas Junta, 44, is charged with manslaughter in connection with the beating death of Michael Costin in July 2000, a case that has attracted national scrutiny following what some say is a surge of parental violence at youth sporting events.
The jury was expected to begin deliberating Junta's fate Thursday following closing arguments.
Junta testified Wednesday that he tried to avoid coming to blows with Costin after the men yelled at each other and scuffled briefly over rough play at their sons' hockey scrimmage in Reading, Mass.
Junta left the rink after the initial confrontation, but returned minutes later to pick up his son. He said Costin then swung at him, and he responded by striking Costin with "three off-balance punches."
Shedding tears at times during his testimony, Junta said he left the ice rink without knowing how gravely he had injured Costin.
"I thought when he laid back down that he was just resting," the burly truck driver said, his voice choking and chin trembling.
Costin never regained consciousness. He died the next day.
Junta also wept when he recalled that several children saw the fatal fight. Among them was his son, Quinlan, then 10, who testified in his father's defense Tuesday.
Prosecutors say the 6-foot-1, 270-pound Junta used his size to overpower Costin, 40, who was an inch shorter and weighed 114 pounds less.
The prosecution's medical experts testified that Costin was beaten in the head and neck with such force that a main artery in the left side of his neck ruptured. But a medical expert for the defense testified Wednesday that a single blow could have caused the rupture.
Witnesses differed on how many blows Junta landed. Several corroborated his claim that he hit Costin in the head only three times, while others said they saw Junta viciously beating Costin, landing as many as 10 hard punches to his head.
While cross-examining Junta, prosecutor Sheila Calkins grilled him about why he didn't try to walk away or pause between the three punches he said he landed.
"This is a 156-pound man lying on his back holding your wrist and you want this jury to believe you couldn't get away from him?" she said.
"Yes I do because that's the truth," Junta said.
Junta's lawyer showed the jury photographs of Junta's injuries, including a 4-inch cut on his face, scrapes on his legs where he said Costin kicked him with his skates, and long scratches on his arm near a tattoo of the cartoon dog Snoopy wearing football gear.
The jury will be told to consider both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges, the judge said. Junta faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
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