An amateur soccer player who punched a referee who died from the blow will spend the next 8 years in prison. Bassel Saad (37) pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter last month. He was ordered to pay $9,000 in restitution to the victim’s family and to the court and will spend the next 8 to 15 years behind bars. After serving his sentence, Saad, who is not a U.S. citizen, faces deportation.
Saad, an auto mechanic from Dearborn, admitted to hitting referee John Bieniewicz on June 29. The 44-year-old match official was preparing to send-off Saad during a Michigan United Soccer League game in Livonia. The referee died two days later.
Before learning his sentence, Saad listened with his head down as members of Bieniewicz’s family addressed the court.
“There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Saad murdered my husband”, said the wife of the victim in court. ”And the sentence, it is what it is. Do I agree? No, because I have a 9-year-old son who says to me, ‘But mom, I thought if you kill somebody you go to prison for the rest of your life,’” she added.
The wife then made a symbolic gesture and shown Saad the red card he was entitled to during the match.
The culprit addressed the judge in tears and said it felt remorse for his actions. “I’m so sorry from the bottom of my heart. I think about him and his family every day. I hope one day they can forgive me,” said Saad, who added that he did not want to commit murder.
Judge Thomas Cameron lectured Saad for destroying more lives than one, including those of his very own family, with such a irrational act. According to witnesses, Bieniewicz reached into his pocket for the red card when he was hit by Saad.
After Saad’s guilty plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors dropped a second-degree murder charge, which has a sentence of life in prison attached to it.
The incident could change legislation in Michigan. It could become the 20th state with a criminal law that focuses on assaults against sports officials, a move that could mean longer jail sentences. An assault, which is currently punished with 93 days in jail, would become a one-year misdemeanor and if a referee is injured, a two-year felony.