Ref's wife: 'It will always be murder in my eyes'

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — One by one the women in Jon Bieniewicz's life spoke through tears Friday to the man convicted for taking his life from a deadly punch to the face during a soccer match last summer.

Kris Bieniewicz holds up a soccer “red card” for Bassel Saad as she talks about the impact her husband’s death has had on her.

And at the end of her words to Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, Bieniewicz's widow Kris offered her husband's killer a soccer red card, which was one of Bieniewicz's last actions as a soccer referee before Saad punched him in the jaw causing Bieniewicz's death a few days later.

It was a red card — which ejects a player from a soccer match — that prompted Saad to deliver a fatal blow to Bieniewicz's face that took the popular soccer referee's life last year.

Saad received 8-15 years in prison and was ordered to pay more than $9,200 for Bieniewicz's funeral expenses as well as other costs associated with the case.

Kris Bieniewicz said although Saad, the father of two children, was convicted of manslaughter as a result of a plea agreement last month, she will always see it differently.

"It's murder in my eyes," said Kris Bieniewicz Friday. "It will always be murder in my eyes."

Kris Bieniewicz said "the only saving grace" about her husband's death is that he died doing what he loved.

Bassel Saad enters court on March 13, 2015.

Saad, who stood in front of Wayne County Judge Thomas Cameron, as Bieniewicz's three sisters, mother and wife spoke, told them at the end of their statements that he was sorry.

"I'm so sorry from the bottom of my heart," said Saad, through tears.

Saad's family members did not speak as they sat in the courtroom. All wore black Friday.

Bieniewicz's eldest sister Laura Meyers told Saad that her brother, the father of two young boys, was kind, generous and non-confrontational.

"I don't understand it," said Meyers Friday. "I don't understand how someone feels such rage over a game."

In sentencing Saad, Cameron told him that he committed "a childish and senseless act" that destroyed many lives including his own family's.

Saad, 37, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter charges for delivering a fatal punch to the face of Bieniewicz, 44, June 29 during a soccer game in Livonia. Saad had faced trial on second-degree murder charges before he took the plea, and he also faces possible deportation back to Lebanon.

Witnesses say Saad became angry because Bieniewicz ejected him from the game at Mies Park. Saad, say other players and spectators at the soccer match, "sucker punched" Bieniewicz, a Westland resident.

Bieniewicz died two days following the fatal blow to his face.

Saad also was convicted of assault and battery in a 2005 soccer-related incident in which he struck another player during a dispute.

The incident is prompting legislators to consider making Michigan the 20th state with a criminal law that targets assaults on sports officials, with bills pending in the Senate to lengthen jail or prison sentences, according to the Associated Press. An assault now classified as a 93-day misdemeanor would become a one-year misdemeanor or, if an official is injured, a two-year felony.

Indiana is considering similar legislation this session, and bills have been introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts and New Hampshire in recent years.

While statistics on the number of attacks on officials is limited, referees nationwide report such incidents are on the rise.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027