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.