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.