Rec soccer player accused of killing referee to stand trial in December

Bassel Saad sobs during a probable-cause hearing after being charged with second-degree murder in the death of soccer referee John Bieniewicz.

Todd McInturf/AP

DETROIT —

A recreational soccer player accused in the one-punch killing of a referee who was about to eject him from a game in suburban Detroit is scheduled to stand trial in December.

Bassel Saad made his first appearance in trial court Thursday, and a trial date was set for Dec. 8. He’s charged with second-degree murder.

Authorities say the auto mechanic from Dearborn punched John Bieniewicz on June 29, as Bieniewicz was preparing to red-card Saad in an adult recreational league game in Livonia.

Saad’s lawyer Ali Hammoud, has argued for a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, describing his client as getting "emotional" in a competitive game.

Hammoud also wants the trial moved out of Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit to a different venue due to extensive media coverage.