Michigan

Amateur player in Michigan sentenced to 8 years for referee’s death; Could face deportation

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Bassel Saad pleaded for forgiveness as he was sentenced to a minimum of eight years in prison for the ‘involuntary manslaughter’ of referee John Bieniewicz last year.

Saad, 37, was set to be handed a red card in a men’s league game and punched Bieniewicz, who died from the attack.

[ MORE: Testimony in trial | Detroit fans donate ]

Bieniewicz’s widow held up a red card of her own at the sentencing, and thinks the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Saad is eligible for parole in 2023, but could see as many as 15 years in prison with the chance for deportation.

From the Associated Press:

She said the sentence and plea deal were generous, adding: “It will always be murder in my eyes.”

“One man has enough pent-up frustration, enough vengeance in his heart, that with one blow he can take my husband’s life and in the process destroy not only my family but his family,” Bieniewicz said.

Saad, 37, will be eligible for parole after eight years. The maximum punishment is 15 years in prison, and he also could be deported. He expressed remorse and said he prays daily for the Bieniewicz family, which includes two children.

“I hope he’s with us, he can hear me. … I hope one day they forgive me,” Saad said.

The story has served as an important example that is unfortunately necessary: We all take sports far too seriously, and it should never ever come to violence on the pitch, even more so against an official.

Testimony in death of Michigan referee provides disturbing glimpse into incident

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Some harrowing details emerged in the probable cause hearing for Bassel Saad, the American man charged with murder after punching and killing referee John Bieniewicz in a Michigan men’s league soccer game.

Bieniewicz was felled by one punch from Saad, witnesses testified, as the referee prepared to brandish a red card. Saad, an auto mechanic, had a previous yellow and was earning a second for verbal abuse.

The referee fell to the turf with a yellow in one hand and the red in the other, and later died from his injuries.

From Mike Householder of the Associated Press comes a recap of the testimony, including that of Saad’s teammate Dr. Jamal Saleh:

The punch, which Saleh said landed around the head and neck area, caused Bieniewicz to “fall back without any control of his body.”

Saleh said he rushed toward Bieniewicz, who was on his back grasping a yellow card in one hand and a red card in the other.

A skirmish erupted between players following the attack. Saleh said he quickly checked on Bieniewicz and the referee initially was not breathing but had a pulse.

Saleh said he performed CPR and told the unconscious Bieniewicz: “Wake up, buddy. You’re going to be OK.”

Bieniewicz, tragically, was not.

Witnesses also testified that Saad, 36, removed his shirt and immediately left the field. When another player followed Saad into the parking lot to get his license place number, he was reportedly photographed making an obscene gesture.

Prosecutors were denied in their attempts to include an on-field incident involving Saad back in 2005.

source:
http://www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler)

Saad was emotional in previous hearings — including the powerful image at right — and the whole incident should give anyone pause to reflect on how they act in amateur soccer matches, especially upon consideration of how often things happen that could turn out to inflict permanent damage on the opponent or official.

Without jumping to conclusions, it’s difficult to imagine that Saad’s punch was intended to end Bieniewicz’s life but that matters very little. Whether the intention should change the eventual consequences of his actions is another discussion altogether (perhaps one for the courts to decide).

Our thoughts continue to be with the Bieniewicz family and Michigan soccer community.