Soccer player gets at least eight years in prison for killing referee

Bassel Saad will spend up to 15 years in jail for punching and killing John Bieniewicz

A weekend soccer player was sentenced Friday to at least eight years in prison for punching and killing a referee during a game in the Detroit area last summer.

Bassel Saad pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter while admitting to punching referee John Bieniewicz, who was preparing to give Saad a red card, in the jaw. Bieniewicz died two days after the assault at age 44.

His widow, Kris Bieniewicz, symbolically held up a red card while giving her impact statement during the sentencing.

“All because of a call on a soccer field," she told the judge. "It's a game. It's a game that we teach our kids as soon as they can walk.”

She added: “One man has enough pent-up frustration, enough vengeance in his heart, that with one blow he can take my husband's life and in the process destroy not only my family but his family.” 

Saad, a 37-year-old auto mechanic, expressed remorse and added that he prays for Bieniewicz's two children and the rest of his family.

"I'm so sorry from the bottom of my heart," a tearful Saad said.

A plea deal was reached in February to avoid the initial charge of second-degree murder. The maximum punishment is 15 years, although Saad will eligible for parole after eight years.

“It will always be murder in my eyes,” Kris Bieniewicz said.

Twitter: @chewkiii

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