DETROIT – A recreational soccer player charged in the one-punch killing of a referee during a game has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in which he would serve 8-15 years in prison, a defense lawyer said Friday.
Cyril Hall told The Associated Press his client Bassel Saad plans to offer a plea of either guilty or no contest to involuntary manslaughter during a hearing Friday in Detroit. The prosecutor's office confirmed a plea was expected.
Saad, 36, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 44-year-old John Bieniewicz last summer. His trial had been scheduled to begin Monday in Wayne County Circuit Court.
The auto mechanic from Dearborn would have faced up to life in prison if convicted as charged.
"When you do the math, it didn't make sense to run the risk," Hall said.
Kris Bieniewicz, the victim's wife, said earlier this week she hoped Saad "never sees the light of day."
Such an outcome would let the world "know that justice was served, and John's life meant something," Bieniewicz said.
Her husband was killed while refereeing an over-30 men's league match at Mies Park in Livonia.
A number of players testified in court last year that Saad had been issued a yellow card, or an official warning, following a foul in the first half of the June 29 match, and John Bieniewicz was about to issue him a second yellow for being verbally abusive. That's when the referee was struck, the players said.
Players are ejected if they are given two yellow cards in the same game.
Bieniewicz died two days later.
His widow recently testified at Michigan's Capitol about proposed legislation she supports that would make it a felony to assault a sports official in the state.
Referees "are out there on an island with no one to defend them. Something more than a misdemeanor should be in place," she said.