Michigan panel OKs making it crime to assault referee

Associated Press

Lansing — Bills moving forward in the Michigan Legislature would make it illegal to assault a sports referee.

A Senate committee Tuesday voted 4-1 to send the legislation to the full Senate.

Soccer referee John Bieniewicz was killed by a player with one punch at a Livonia park last summer.

Democratic Sen. Morris Hood III of Detroit introduced the bills. He said the legislation will make sporting events safer and “encourage people to respect the game.”

Bieniewicz’s wife recently testified in support of the legislation.

It’s illegal to assault someone in Michigan. But the bills would provide enhanced criminal penalties for attacking a sports official.

Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton says he voted “no” because criminal sentencing should not depend on someone’s profession.