LIVONIA (WWJ/AP) — A Detroit-area soccer player accused of killing a referee with a punch to his neck is scheduled to appear in court.
Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad is charged with second-degree murder. The 36-year-old auto mechanic from Dearborn is to be arraigned Thursday in Livonia District Court.
John Bieniewicz died last week from injuries sustained June 29 when he was hit while working as a referee at a men’s soccer game in Livonia. Police and prosecutors say Saad struck Bieniewicz as the 44-year-old referee formally announced his decision to eject him.
Saad initially was charged with assault, but prosecutors amended the charge after Bieniewicz died.
Defense lawyer Brian Berry has said his client is not guilty of assaulting Bieniewicz, whose funeral service is to be held on Thursday.
Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, was initially charged with of assault with intent to do great bodily harm in the attack, but prosecutors amended the charges on Wednesday.
“The entire soccer world mourns with the family upon the death of John Bieniewicz. This is especially tragic because it happened as the World Cup dominates our television screens,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in a media release.
“The alleged actions of this defendant cannot be tolerated and there must be action taken in our legislature to make sure that there are stronger penalties when a Referee is the victim during organized sport.”
A 911 caller told police Bieniewicz’s attacker fled in a Jeep with “a huge Brazil flag” after throwing a punch during the June 29 game.
The woman told a dispatcher: “We have somebody who just assaulted a referee…The referee is knocked out. He’s not waking up.” [LISTEN TO THE 911 CALL]
Police said Saad wasn’t at the scene when authorities arrived, but turned him self in later on.
Saad is scheduled to be arraigned on the murder charge at 9 a.m. Thursday before Judge Kathleen McCann in the 16th District Court in Livonia. A new preliminary exam date will be set at that time.
Meantime, Saad remains behind bars on a $1 million cash/surety bond.
Two memorial funds have been set up for Bieniewicz’s family. Get more information HERE.
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