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Detroit-area soccer player due back in court on murder charge after punching referee

A recreational soccer player accused in the one-punch slaying of a referee who was about to penalize and eject him from a game is making his first appearance in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Bassel Saad is scheduled to appear Thursday morning for an arraignment in the Detroit courtroom of Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway. He was ordered last week to stand trial on a second-degree murder charge.

Authorities say the auto mechanic from Dearborn struck John Bieniewicz on June 29 as the referee was preparing to red-card Saad in an adult recreational league game in Livonia.

Prosecutors have described the punch as "very violent" and "thought-out." Saad's lawyer has argued for a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, describing his client as getting "emotional" in a competitive game.

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