July 9, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Charges elevated to second-degree murder in fatal Livonia assault of soccer referee

John Bieniewicz (Jim Bieniewicz / AP)

Charges against the man accused of causing the death of a local soccer referee were elevated Wednesday afternoon to second-degree murder.

Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, a 36-year-old Dearborn father of four, was charged in the death of John Bieniewicz, a 44-year-old Westland father of two, after a June 29 adult soccer game in Livonia in which Bieniewicz was assaulted.

Bieniewicz died July 1, two days after the assault, in Detroit Receiving Hospital. His organs were donated through the Gift of Life program.

“It’s unfortunate that one action in the blink of an eye has so many awful ramifications ... two families have been shattered over this and countless other people devastated,” said Bieniewicz’s friend James Acho. “Let this be a sad, tragic lesson to everybody.”

Saad was originally charged June 30 with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. Those charges were dismissed Wednesday and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy amended the charges to second-degree murder.

“The entire soccer world mourns with the family upon the death of John Bieniewicz,” Worthy said in a statement. “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.”

According to witnesses and authorities, Saad “sucker punched” Bieniewicz in the face after the soccer referee pulled a red card against Saad, effectively ejecting him from the match.

Other players and witnesses at Mies Park on West Chicago in Livonia said Saad fled the scene after the incident and before police and paramedics arrived on the scene. Saad’s lawyer, Brian Berry, said Saad turned himself in to police the following Monday.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Bieniewicz’s death a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma to the neck.

Bieniewicz will be laid to rest Thursday, the same day Saad is scheduled to be arraigned on the amended charges in 16th District Court in Livonia. Saad is being held on a $1 million cash/surety bond.

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Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.

Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad (AP/Livonia Police Department, File))