The soccer player who fatally punched a referee during a game has received a plea deal which some say is too lenient.
Last July, Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, a 36-year-old man from Dearborn, Michigan, punched a 44-year-old referee at an adult league match at Mies Park in Livonia, Michigan. The referee, John Bieniewicz, died as a result of the punch, leaving behind a wife and two small sons.
According to witnesses, Saad “sucker punched” Bieniewicz after the referee indicated he would eject Saad from the game. At the time, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office released a statement citing what happened.
“It is alleged that Saad became upset and punched the referee in the head.”
Scott Herkes was a player in the soccer game when the incident occurred. Herkes said he was about 30 yards away when Saad punched the referee.
“It was terrifying,” he said. “I have never in my life seen something like this.”
The referee died from the punch, but he was kept on a ventilator until his organs could be harvested and donated through the Gift of Life program. When he wasn’t refereeing soccer matches, Bieniewicz was the lead medical assistant in the Pediatric Chronic Dialysis unit at C.S. Mott Children’s hospital in Ann Arbor.
Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad was arraigned on a felony second-degree murder charge following Bieniewicz’s death.
Today, a lawyer for Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad says his client has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in which he would serve eight to 15 years in prison. Saad is expected to enter the guilty plea before Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny, according to Wayne County spokeswoman Maria Miller. Saad’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday.
Bieniewicz’s widow, Kris, said earlier this week she hoped Saad “never sees the light of day.”
This is not the first case of a soccer referee dying after being punched during a match. In 2013, a 17-year-old killed a referee by punching him in the face during a youth game in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2012, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old in the Netherlands beat a 41-year-old linesman during a soccer match. The linesman fell into a coma and died as a result of his injuries.
When referees try to protect themselves, things can get even worse. In 2013, in Brazil, a player attempted to punch a referee during a match. The referee pulled out a knife that he’d been carrying to protect himself from players on the field and stabbed the player, who died from the wounds on the way to the hospital. Meanwhile, the player’s friends and family stormed onto the field. They tied up the referee, beat him, stoned him, and then quartered him. They then cut off his head and placed it on a pole in the center of the soccer field.
What do you think? Is eight to 15 years enough of a sentence for a player who lost his temper and fatally sucker punched a ref? What’s the explanation for all the violence in soccer?