Man who attacked Michigan soccer referee charged with murder

Soccer player now faces murder charge in Michigan referee's death

The Michigan soccer player accused of assaulting a soccer referee as he was being ejected from a game late last month has been charged with the referee's death, prosecutors said.

Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, who is accused of punching referee John Bieniewicz, 44, after the official tried to eject him from a June 29 match in Livonia will now face second-degree murder charges after Bieniewicz died July 1 of his injuries, according to a statement released by the Wayne County prosecutor's office.

Bieniewicz, who had been a referee in the area for more than 15 years, was knocked unconscious by the blow, police have said. Friends previously told the Los Angeles Times that the referee landed hard on his head and was rendered virtually brain dead by the attack.

“The entire soccer world mourns with the family upon the death of John Bieniewicz. This is especially tragic because it happened as the World Cup dominates our television screens,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy said in a statement. “The alleged actions of this defendant cannot be tolerated and there must be action taken in our legislature to make sure that there are stronger penalties when a referee is the victim during organized sport.” 

Bieniewicz grew up in suburban Detroit and was part of a close-knit group of friends who  graduated from Detroit Central Catholic High School in 1988.

He was a standout athlete in high school and served as a supervisor of pediatric dialysis at Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, friends previously told The Times.

Saad is expected to be arraigned on the murder charge Thursday, prosecutors said. Bieniewicz is survived by his wife and two sons.

In two decades, Bieniewicz had never had a physical altercation with a player on the pitch, his friend James Acho told The Times.

"He was a very mild-mannered guy, very non-confrontational and very professional," Acho said.

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