DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The wife of a Detroit-area soccer referee filed a $51 million lawsuit Friday against a hot-headed player who is in prison for throwing a punch that killed her husband during a game last summer.

The figure represents $1 million for each of the 51 additional years that John Bieniewicz, 44, could have lived, according to the lawsuit in Wayne County court.

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Kristen Bieniewicz of Westland, the representative of her husband’s estate, is suing Bassel Saad, another man who controlled the team and the soccer league.

Bieniewicz died after Saad punched him in the head just moments before Saad would have been ejected from a weekend game in Livonia.

“We hope this lawsuit sends a message that when you commit uncivilized acts in a civilized world there are consequences, even beyond the criminal realm,” said attorney James Acho, who had known Bieniewicz since childhood.

Citing his doctor, the lawsuit described Bieniewicz, who had two children, as being in great health with the potential to live to age 95.

“I speak for his dozens of buddies, many of whom go back to our days at Catholic Central High, and we want justice for his family,” said Acho, who is handling the case with co-counsel Karen Daley.

The lawsuit also names the Michigan United Soccer League, which is accused of allowing Saad to play despite his reputation as a violent player.

Bassel Saad (credit: Wayne County Prosecutor's Office)

Bassel Saad (credit: Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office)

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Saad, 37, was recently sentenced to at least eight years in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He expressed remorse in court and said he prays for the Bieniewicz family. Saad, who stood stoically, only appeared to get emotional once Bieniewicz’s widow. Before stepping away from the podium, Kristen Bieniewicz completed her husband’s final act.

“I would like to serve Mr. Saad with the red card that he was entitled to,” she said, holding up a red referee card.

According to witnesses, Bieniewicz reached into his pocket June 29 and was in the process of pulling out a red card when he was punched during the second half of a Michigan United Soccer League adult game in Livonia. [HEAR THE 911 CALL]

“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.”

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office says the blow knocked Bieniewicz out before he even hit the ground. He died two days later at a local hospital. The cause of death was “blunt impact to left side of his neck” the Medical Examiner said.

In exchanged for Saad’s guilty plea to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors dropped a second-degree murder charge, which carries a sentence of life in prison. After serving his sentence, Saad faces deportation because he is not a U.S. citizen.

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