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Soccer player charged with second-degree murder in referee's death

FILE -This undated file photo released by Jim Bieniewicz shows his brother, soccer referee John Bieniewicz, 44, top left, with his family. Bieniewicz was attacked while officiating at an adult league game in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Mich., on Sunday, June 29, 2014. Bieniewicz lost consciousness and died Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at a hospital. On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, soccer player Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, of Dearborn was charged with second-degree murder. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Jim Bieniewicz, File)

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FILE -This undated file photo released by Jim Bieniewicz shows his brother, soccer referee John Bieniewicz, 44, top left, with his family. Bieniewicz was attacked while officiating at an adult league game in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Mich., on Sunday, June 29, 2014. Bieniewicz lost consciousness and died Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at a hospital. On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, soccer player Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, of Dearborn was charged with second-degree murder. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Jim Bieniewicz, File)

DETROIT - A Detroit-area soccer player accused of killing a referee with a punch to the neck was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder.

The charge against Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad was announced eight days after John Bieniewicz died from his injuries.

Bieniewicz, 44, of Westland, was working as a referee at a men's soccer game in Livonia on June 29 when Saad, faced with ejection, struck him with a punch, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said.

"This is especially tragic because it happened as the World Cup dominates our television screens," Worthy said. "The alleged actions of this defendant cannot be tolerated and there must be action taken in our Legislature to make sure that there are stronger penalties when a referee is the victim during organized sport."

Saad, 36, of Dearborn had been charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm before Bieniewicz died July 1. That charge will be dropped.

A message seeking comment was left for Saad's attorney, Brian Berry.

Saad has been free on bond. He will appear again in a Livonia court Thursday on the second-degree murder charge, which carries a punishment of up to life in prison.

Bieniewicz, a part-time referee for two decades, was a dialysis technician at Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. He was married and had two sons.

Bieniewicz was punched while working at an over-30 Michigan United Soccer League game.

"Do I think he intended to kill John? No," said Jim Acho, a lawyer and Bieniewicz family friend. "Nevertheless, there are consequences for even unintended results of a direct act.

"It's a shame. (Saad) has four children," Acho said. "One senseless act has devastated two families in the blink of an eye."

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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