A weekend soccer player was sentenced Friday to at least eight years in prison after delivering a punch to a Detroit-area referee that ultimately led to his death.
The controversial case has shed light on recreational athletes assaulting referees and has inspired Michigan lawmakers to consider new crimes for assaults on sports referees.
Saad, 37-years-old, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, admitting he punched John Bieniewicz during a game last summer in Livonia Park, Seattle Pi reported. Bieniewicz, 44, was preparing to call a penalty that would have ejected Saad, a Dearborn auto mechanic, from the game when Saad punch him.
He died two days later following the fatal blow to his face.
During Saad’s sentencing Friday, Bieniewicz’s widow pulled a red card, which signals ejection in soccer, from her pocket during her remarks in court, although Saad had his back to the gallery and didn’t see the gesture.
Kris Bieniewicz said the sentence and plea deal were generous, Seattle Pi reported.
“It’s murder. It will always be murder in my eyes,” she said to the judge. She added that the “only saving grace” about her husband’s death is he died doing what he loved.
Saad will be eligible for parole after serving eight years in prison. His maximum punishment is 15 years.
“Our hearts are broken,” John’s mother Barbara Bieniewicz said.
Saad expressed remorse and said he prays for the Bieniewicz’s family, which includes two young children.
“I’m so sorry from the bottom of my heart,” Saad said to the court, through tears.
The sentence ordered by Wayne County Judge Thomas Cameron followed the plea deal reached in February by prosecutors and Saad, Seattle Pi reported. The judge said Bieniewicz’s death was a “childish, senseless act” and said Saad symbolized for many the shocking level of violence in community sports nationwide.
Soccer Player To Serve 8 Years In Prison For Fatal Punch