independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Teen charged in ref death case

Johana Portillo-Lopez, daughter of Ricardo Portillo, speaks about her father's death during a news conference in Salt Lake City (AP)

A Utah teenager accused of punching a football referee who later died has been charged with homicide by assault, a count issued when an attack unintentionally causes death.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced the charges, saying he will seek to try the teenager as an adult.

A homicide by assault charge is less serious than manslaughter. It carries up to five years in prison for adults, but penalties can be less for juveniles.

The 17-year-old has been in juvenile detention since April 27 when the incident occurred at a recreational-league match in a Salt Lake City suburb.

Authorities say the teenager was playing goalkeeper when 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo called a penalty on him for pushing an opposing player. The teenager began arguing with Mr Portillo and then struck him in the head.

Mr Portillo was taken to the hospital in fair condition. Hours later, he went into a coma. He never regained consciousness and died on Saturday.

Funeral services are being held in Salt Lake City for Mr Portillo, who leaves behind three daughters and four grandchildren.

After the funeral, Mr Portillo's remains will be returned to his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. He moved to Utah from there 17 years ago.

Family members said Mr Portillo loved football and had been working as a referee in different leagues for eight years. His oldest daughter, Johana Portillo, said he had been attacked before by players, even having his legs and ribs broken. Though his daughters begged him to quit, he said he could not give up his passion.

The incident occurred in a game held by La Liga Continental de Futbol, an unaffiliated league created in 2009. The league holds games for children ages 4 to 17 each Saturday at a junior high school field in Taylorsville.

Press Association

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