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Amateur soccer player is sentenced to 8-15 years in death of referee

Bassel Saad, shown last summer, was sentenced to at least eight years for involuntary manslaughter.

DETROIT -- A weekend soccer player in the Detroit area whose punch killed a referee has been sentenced to at least eight years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

The case against Bassel Saad has put a spotlight on out-of-control recreational athletes and inspired Michigan lawmakers to consider new crimes for assaults on sports referees.

Saad, a Dearborn auto mechanic, admits striking referee John Bieniewicz during a game last summer at a Livonia park. Bieniewicz was preparing to call a penalty that would have dismissed Saad from the game.

In a dramatic moment, Bieniewicz's wife, Kris Bieniewicz, held up a red card in court Friday, signaling the dismissal. Saad expressed remorse.

He will be eligible for parole after eight years. His maximum punishment is 15 years in prison.

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