Teen pleads guilty in Utah soccer ref death

A teenager charged with killing a Utah soccer referee because he
didn’t like the man’s call during a game pleaded guilty Monday to a
charge of homicide by assault in a case that brought new attention
to the issue of violence and sportsmanship in athletics.

The plea deal was hashed out between the teen’s attorneys and
prosecutors as the judge planned to hear testimony to decide if the
17-year-old suspect would be tried in juvenile or adult court.
Under the deal, prosecutors agreed to keep the case in juvenile
court.

A judge sentenced the teenager to juvenile prison, leaving how
much time he’ll spend there to a juvenile parole board. The maximum
would be just more than three years until he turns 21, but the
parole board has the authority to let him out sooner, said Patricia
Cassell, a Salt Lake County deputy district attorney.

Police say the teenager punched 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo
once in the head on April 27 after the referee called a foul on
him. Portillo died after a weeklong coma, leaving behind three
daughters.

The teenager, whose name The Associated Press is withholding due
to his age, was charged with homicide by assault, a count issued
when an attack unintentionally causes death.

”I was frustrated at the ref and caused his death,” the
teenager said, speaking softly, when Juvenile Court Judge Kimberly
Hornak asked him what happened.

Hornak ordered him to put up a picture in his cell of Portillo
and write his daughters a letter every week about how he’s
improving himself so that he’s reminded constantly of the pain he
caused the family.

Two of Portillo’s daughters spoke in court Monday, telling the
teenager that taking their father away has destroyed the
family.

”I don’t think you’ll ever understand how much pain and
suffering you made us go through,” said Ana Portillo, 21, looking
at the teenager. ”We just wish you had taken a deep breath before
you did what you did. You have to change.”

After Portillo’s daughters spoke, the teen told the judge he
acted impulsively and takes full responsibility for his actions.
Handcuffed and wearing an orange prison shirt, he spoke calmly and
slowly.

He told the judge he aims to get his high school degree and
study chemical engineering in college. He then looked straight at
Portillo’s daughters, seated in the front row, and told them he
knows how much pain he has caused them.

”I’m sorry for everything I’ve done,” he said.

Later, the teen’s mother issued a tearful apology to the
Portillos in Spanish, saying her son never had any trouble and was
a good child until this incident.

Hornak noted the teen is a good student – taking Advanced
Placement classes – with no previous criminal record. But she also
underscored the seriousness of the crime and said she was most
troubled that he acted so violently toward a person that did
nothing to provoke him.

Cassell, the Salt Lake County deputy district attorney, said
prosecutors viewed the deal as fair. Prosecutors previously said
they wanted the boy tried as an adult due to the seriousness of
what happened and because he will turn 18 in less than three
months.

Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombsage.