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Witnesses describe punch that killed soccer ref, say suspect has been violent before

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    Bassel Abdul-Amir SaadBassel Abdul-Amir Saad
    A Dearborn soccer player accused of killing a referee with a punch to the neck is scheduled to appear in court. Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad is charged with second-degree murder. Saad initially was charged with assault. Prosecutors amended the charge after John Bieniewicz died.
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LIVONIA, Mich. (WJBK) -  More details emerged from 16th District Court about what  happened on the soccer field the day that referee John Bieniewicz died, allegedly from a punch to the neck by Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad.

Testimony was heard through the eyes of four witnesses, three players including two on the opposing team, one teammate of Saad and a police officer.

According to court testimony, Saad has gotten violent before on the soccer field.

Wiping away tears, 36-year-old Saad, facing a judge on second-degree murder in Livonia, is accused of punching and killing Bieniewicz, 44, one month ago.

Prosecutors called two players from the opposing team, both recalling the moments they say he issued a second foul to Saad.

"The referee blew his whistle a second time, stopped the play, and gave him a second yellow card," said witness Joseph Consenza. "Which means that's a red card. Which means ejection from the game."

Bieniewicz issued a yellow foul card, but he didn't have time to issue the red card that would take Saad out of the game.

Witnesses say Saad punched him before he could.

"(Saad was) straight-armed, and swung across his body to contact the referee, basically across this area," said witness Scott Herkes, motioning to his neck area.

Another player on his team, a trained physician, testified that he tried to save him.

"I said you'll be okay and ran some cold water over his head," said witness Jamal Saleh.

Prosecutors showed pictures taken that day, showing Saad taking off his jersey and driving away, and putting up his middle finger.

Defense attorney Ali Hammoud tested the memories of those witnesses insisting that many players from more than 60 feet away couldn't see for sure where Bieniewicz was hit, or who hit him.

"But you didn't see him actually hit?" Hammoud asked Herkes, who answered "no."

The prosecution added that the case is all about intent, citing a prior incident back in 2005 involving Saad, when he hit a player, which Hammoud says has no relevance.

 The preliminary hearing here in Livonia will pick up tomorrow. Saad faces life in prison.



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