Soccer player pleads guilty in death of referee

An adult soccer player pleaded guilty on Friday to involuntary manslaughter for fatally injuring a referee who he punched during a weekend game in a Detroit suburb last summer.

Bassel Saad, 36, had been scheduled to go on trial on Monday on second-degree murder charges in the death of referee John Bieniewicz, 44, who he admitted to striking in the neck or throat during a game in Livonia, Michigan, last June.

Saad, who lives in Dearborn, Michigan, is not a U.S. citizen and could be deported following his conviction, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny said in accepting a plea agreement with prosecutors to the reduced charge.

Under the agreement with prosecutors, Saad admitted to causing Bieniewicz’s death and agreed to a prison sentence of eight to 15 years. Kenny ordered Saad remanded into custody and scheduled his sentencing for March 13.

Prosecutors had said Saad became upset at Bieniewicz, a long-time soccer referee licensed at all levels, when the referee was about to eject him from an adult league game on June 29 in Livonia. Bieniewicz died two days later.

An autopsy determined that Bieniewicz had died from blunt force trauma to the neck and the Wayne County medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

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