LIVONIA (WWJ/AP) – He didn’t see the punch coming. That statement from a witness Wednesday in a Livonia courtroom for the preliminary trial of a man accused in the death of a soccer match referee.
Police and prosecutors contend that Bassel Saad struck John Bieniewicz, June 29, as the 44-year-old referee announced his decision to eject Saad from a men’s league game.
The prosecution put four witnesses on the stand during the preliminary exam in 16th District Court in Livonia.
“He put his head down, put his hand in his pocket, and went to raise the red card, as he did that, I saw Mr. Saad take a few steps and throw a punch,” said a witness.
“It was a pretty quick motion,” the witness added,”sort of looked over the left shoulder, saw the ref approaching him from this direction – about to give him the card – and sort of turned back … and he turned back and swung in the direction of his head.”
Dr. Jamel Sala was one of the players in the match last month who witnessed Saad hitting Bieniewicz.
He told the court said he tried to help Bieniewicz after he was knocked unconscious:
“I was saying, ‘wake up buddy, you’ll be okay,’ I ran some cold water over his head because his head was a little warm to see if that would help. I noticed that he started to turn a little bit blue – he wasn’t breathing – no chest rising,” he testified.
Saad is a 36-year-old auto mechanic from Dearborn. He initially was charged with assault, but prosecutors amended the charge after Bieniewicz died.
Defense lawyer Ali Hammoud has said his client is “extremely remorseful,” but will have his day in court.
The incident happened at Mies Park in the 3200 block of West Chicago Road in Livonia.
Bieniewicz was a dialysis technician at Mott Children’s Hospital who lived in the Detroit suburb of Westland with his wife and two sons.
Saad, charged with second degree murder, faces up to life in prison if convicted on the charge.
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