Defendant testifies in “rink rage” trial

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.

Shedding tears and getting choked up at times, the burly truck driver who beat another father to death at their sons” hockey practice testified yesterday that the other guy took a swing at him first and that he fought back in self-defense.

“I just wanted him to stop hitting me,” said 44-year-old Thomas Junta.

Junta said he landed only three, off-balance blows against Michael Costin as the smaller man struggled beneath him on the ground.

Junta 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.

Junta is on trial on manslaughter charges in the fight that broke out at a Reading ice rink in July 2000 after the two fathers argued over rough play on the ice. Prosecutors say the 6-foot-1, 270-pound defendant overpowered Costin, who was an inch shorter and weighed 110 pounds less, and pummeled him. Costin never regained consciousness and died a day later.

During an aggressive cross-examination by prosecutor Sheila Calkins, Junta said he walked away from the fatal fight without checking to see if the victim was hurt.

“I thought when he laid back down that he was just resting,” Junta testified, his voice choking and chin trembling. “I didn”t know the man was hurt.”

Justice Dept. begins criminal probe of Enron

WASHINGTON

The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Enron Corp., whose employees lost billions when the company barred them from selling plummeting Enron shares from their retirement accounts.

The department has formed a national task force, headed by the criminal division and made up of federal prosecutors in Houston, San Francisco, New York and several other cities, said a Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Labor Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are conducting civil investigations.

Enron attorney Robert Bennett said the company was pleased with the prospect of a Justice Department investigation that would “bring light to the facts.”

“As I understand it, this means there will be a centralized investigation at the Justice Department,” Bennett said. “It”s important that we not let the Washington scandal machine take over.”

While ordinary employees were prohibited from selling company stock from their Enron-heavy 401(k) accounts, Enron executives cashed out more than $1 billion in stock when it was near its peak.

Deputy fired for lying to parents of victim

LITTLETON, Colo.

A sheriff”s deputy was fired yesterday for giving conflicting statements about the shooting of a teen-ager during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, officials said. Relatives of the slain student, Daniel Rohrbough, said the deputy told them he saw a boy fall to the ground after apparently being shot. They said Lt. Jim Taylor told them he realized it was Rohrbough after seeing newspaper photos of him.

But in a Dec. 31 statement, Taylor said he didn”t see the shooting and told the family only what he had seen on television and read in newspapers.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan said radio tapes and interviews prove Taylor was not in a position to see gunfire or Rohrbough during the April 20, 1999, shooting.

Rohrbough”s family claim the 15-year-old was accidentally shot by an officer as he fled the school.

Food stamps may go to more immigrants

WASHINGTON

The Bush administration wants to reverse part of the 1996 welfare overhaul and restore food stamps for 363,000 legal immigrants, an idea that probably will be well received by Hispanic voters this election year.

Immigrants who have lived in the country for at least five years would be eligible for the benefits under the proposal that will be part of President Bush”s 2003 budget. Under current rules, adult immigrants must have worked in the country for at least 10 years, no matter how long they had lived in the United States, or be a refugee or member of the military to qualify for benefits.

A senior administration official, who described the proposal yesterday on condition of anonymity, said the White House wants the rule change included in an overhaul of farm and nutrition policy now pending in Congress.

Girl voted school”s “ugliest” files lawsuit

AGOURA HILLS, Calif.

A 17-year-old student who was named on the Internet as the “ugliest girl” at her school has sued her former school district, claiming officials did nothing to stop “the escalating pattern of sexual harassment” by other students.

Sophomore Alison Goller quit Agoura High School after “the taunting became unbearable,” according to the lawsuit.

Alison was teased at first about her appearance, then accused of promiscuity, the suit alleged.

After a bout of mononucleosis, Alison returned to school last February to more taunting from classmates and a teacher, prompting her to leave the school.

“People really do mean things in high school,” Alison said in an interview. “I”m really surprised nobody has brought a gun to school at Agoura,” which is about 30 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

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