Ref Punch Nets Homicide Charge For Teenage Soccer Player

A ref punch is bringing a homicide charge for a Utah teen who took out his aggression on an unsuspecting soccer official.

The teen has been charged with homicide by assault, which is issued when an attack causes an unintentional death. The charge is less serious than manslaughter, but still carries up to five years in prison for adults.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he will attempt to try the 17-year-old soccer player as an adult, adding that the ref punch warranted homicide rather than a higher charge.

“We did not believe we could demonstrate the premeditation or intent to justify those charges,” Gill told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Those other charges require another type of mental state. We did not believe that type of mental state was present.”

The incident took place April 27 during a recreational-league soccer game in a suburb of Salt Lake City. The teenager was playing goalie when 46-year-old ref Ricardo Portillo penalized him with a yellow card for pushing an opposing player.

The teenager began arguing with the soccer ref, and as Portillo looked down to write in his notepad the teen struck him in the rear jaw with a single closed-fist punch.

Portillo was all right at first, but became woozy and asked someone to held hold him up. He sat down and vomited blood, then was taken to a hospital. Portillo was listed in fair condition when he was taken in to a hospital, but within hours the soccer ref went into a coma with swelling of the brain and never regained consciousness. He died on Sunday.

The ref punch homicide left his family devastated. His daughter, Johana Portillo, said family members tried to talk Ricardo out of officiating after he was attacked on two other occasions, but he loved soccer too much to give it up.

Because the still-unnamed teenager is five months shy of his 18th birthday, Gill said the ref punch homicide charge should land him an adult trial. A juvenile court judge will rule on the request.