Posted: May 8, 2013 8:23 PM by cbssports.com
A Utah teenager accused of punching a soccer referee, who later died from complications of the head injury, was charged on Wednesday with third-degree felony homicide by assault in juvenile court.
The charge carries up to five years in prison for adults, but penalties can be less severe for juveniles. Salt Lake County prosecutors, however, are looking to try the 17-year old as an adult. The teenager, who will turn 18 in October, could be held in detention until he turns 21 if the case remains in juvenile court. In Utah, a minor over the age of 14 can be tried as an adult before a hearing in front of a juvenile court judge.
"We're trying to balance between a youth who is close to being 18 with the amount of harm that has been caused," Salt Lake County district attorney Sim Gill told The Salt Lake Tribune. "You want to balance the status of that youth with the harm that has been caused and the loss that has been suffered by this community."
Ricardo Portillo, 46, of Salt Lake City, died last Saturday after spending a week in a coma from a brain injury sustained at a recreational soccer match on April 27 in a Salt Lake City suburb. The teenager, who was playing goalie at the time of the incident, took exception to receiving a yellow card by Portillo for pushing an opponent. Angered by the call, the teenager argued with the volunteer referee before striking him in the side of his head, as he recorded the penalty in a notebook.
Portillo was reportedly conscious when respondents arrived at the scene, but had spit up a small amount of blood, the Tribune reported. Shortly after being admitted to a local hospital, Portillo's brain began to swell and he slipped into a coma. Portillo was taken off life support last Saturday.
Funeral services were held for Portillo, a father of three, on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. Portillo's remains will be returned to Guadalajara, Mexico, his hometown. Known for his passion for soccer, Portillo had worked as a referee for several leagues in the Salt Lake City-area since moving to Utah from Mexico in the mid-1990s.
The incident took place in the La Liga Continental de Futbol, a league for youth soccer players ages 4-17. Mario Vasquez, the league's president, told the Associated Press earlier this week that a benefit soccer tournament will be held in Portillo's honor later this month. Proceeds from the tournament will go to Portillo's family.