Soccer player 'who killed referee with a single punch' sobs in court as witnesses describe attack on father-of-two
- Bassel Saad, 36, charged with second-degree murder in Livonia, Michigan for the fatal punch on June 29
- Saad allegedly punched referee John Bieniewicz after being told he was being ejected from game
- Bieniewicz, a 44-year-old dialysis tech at a local hospital, was a married father-of-two
16:58 EST, 30 July 2014
13:09 EST, 31 July 2014
A soccer referee who was
fatally punched by a player during a recreational game in suburban
Detroit did not expect the attack, one of the player's teammates
testified on Wednesday.
Jamal Saleh testified during a probable-cause hearing for Bassel Saad,
who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of referee John
44-year-old referee 'did not see the punch coming,' said Saleh, who
played for Saad's team during the over-30 men's league game at Mies Park
in Livonia on June 29. Bieniewicz, a dialysis technician at a local
hospital, had a wife and two sons.
Defendant Bassel Saad sobs during a
probable-cause hearing on Wednesday afternoon in Livonia, Michigan. Saad
is charged with second-degree murder in the death of soccer referee
John Bieniewicz (pictured), who was punched in
the head on June 29 while refereeing an adult-league soccer match in the
Detroit-area, died on July 1
Two players from the
opposing team also testified that Saad knocked Bieniewicz to the turf
with one punch after the referee indicated he planned to eject Saad from
The punch, which
Saleh said landed around the head and neck area, caused Bieniewicz to
'fall back without any control of his body.'
Saleh said he rushed toward Bieniewicz, who was on his back grasping a yellow card in one hand and a red card in the other.
soccer, a yellow card is held aloft by the referee to caution a player
following a foul or other misconduct. A red card is shown by the referee
when a player is being thrown out of the game. Two yellow cards given
in the same game equal a red card.
Witness Scott Herkes, left, demonstrates with
defense attorney Ali Hammoud how he said Bassel Saad punched soccer
referee John Bieniewicz, during a court hearing on Wednesday in Livonia,
In this case, the
players testified that Saad had been issued a yellow card following a
foul in the first half, and Bieniewicz was giving him a second yellow
for being verbally abusive. That's when he was struck, the three players
A skirmish erupted
between players following the attack. Saleh said he quickly checked on
Bieniewicz and the referee initially was not breathing but had a pulse.
Saleh said he performed CPR and told the unconscious Bieniewicz: 'Wake up, buddy. You're going to be OK.'
Scott Herkes testified that Saad removed his jersey and left the field
with another man as Bieniewicz was being tended to.
Herkes said he followed the men into the parking lot and took down the license plate number of the vehicle in which they left.
Prosecutors showed a photograph in which Saad appeared to be making an obscene gesture while seated in the vehicle.
A man who was punched in the head on June 29
while refereeing an adult-league soccer match in the Detroit-area has
John Bieniewicz, who was attacked on Sunday at a park in Livonia,
Michigan died at Detroit Receiving Hospital on Tuesday, said hospital
spokesman Alton Gunn
Saad, a 36-year-old auto
mechanic from Dearborn, had been charged with assault with intent to do
great bodily harm before Bieniewicz died on July 1. That charge was
formally dropped, and prosecutors issued the murder charge.
The probable-cause hearing in Livonia District Court, which will determine whether to send the case to trial, resumed today.
ended with Judge Kathleen McCann denying prosecutors' motion to bring
up an alleged 2005 incident in which Saad is said to have been involved
in an altercation with another player at a soccer game.
lawyer Ali Hammoud said his client's past has nothing to do with this
case, and prosecutors' interest in bringing it up shows that 'their case
is extremely weak on second-degree murder.'