Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Whistle, a Punch, and a Soccer Referee Is Dead

Ricardo Portillo Update: Utah Teen Accused Of Killing Soccer Ref In Court

SALT LAKE CITY — 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. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of the HuffPo.

Kicking Back Comments: The title comes from the NYT article of same fame that can be found here. It was the best way I could think of to focus the mind on what happened here.

Here is another, this admitted murderers sentence is a maximum of just over 3 years.

Focused yet?

Biggest loser in this case is the Portillio family, who lost a husband and father. (see here for video)

Biggest chicken $h*t in this case is Patricia Cassell, ADA for Salt Lake County, on two levels.

First, is having the gall to say the plea deal struck is fair. Fair to who Patty? To the 17 year and 9 month old who killed an innocent man? Fair to the DA's office who took the easy way out and got a plea? Fair to the Portillio family somehow to (in my own words) "end their suffering?"

Second, is the DA's office going back on their statement they were going to have this admitted murderer tried as an adult. They took the easy way out and got the "quick win." Gotta make those numbers look good .. getting ready for the bench and all following in her husbands footsteps. Right?

Who really knows. Plea deals happen every day, all the time. Lets not forget however, it is a quid pro quo. In exchange for his guilty plea, the murderer has received only 3 years maximum. Granted the sentencing guidelines would call for only another 2 if tried as an adult, but for my money Patty, do the leg work, and get the additional 2 years. But it's so expensive to have a trial you say, tax payer dollars and all ... well then have the guts to say that to the press and Mr. Portillio's family when asked why juvenile court was the venue. Don't just shrug and say "... it would have only been another two years ..."

What amazing empathy from the ADA to the Portillio family.

Now I'll go out of my way to say that there is nothing improprietous on its face that seems to be going on here, it is however a stunning reversal for the DA for a serious crime.

Maybe I'm tainted because I expect the DA to prosecute the crime to the full extent of the law without short changing the investigative process in actually getting the necessary evidence to punish this person for what he did.

Maybe I am just so taken with the story of Matthew Cordle who killed a man, yet had the courage to admit what he did, even before he was charged, and accept his punishment for it. Punishment he deserves for killing a man.

No such honor in this case, from the criminal, or those who were responsible for prosecuting the crime.

There is one loose end however ... does US Soccer know, and is this killer now on a "no fly list" with them? I would hope a proactive lifetime ban is now in effect for this individual.

If not, shame on US Soccer.


  1. Peter,

    You are big on facts, and I like this about your blog.
    Some parts are missing to the story. All parties to this tragic event had nothing to do with US Soccer or any other organized sporting organization, as a result this is the best the parties involved can hope for as a resolution.

    Referees, Players, Coaches, and Spectators in America don't understand these differences and paint it all as the same (note the recent issues with players abusing players at area soccer or sports camps and hazing). They aren't, and in fact, the fragmenting of organized soccer in the US is the byproduct. All in the name of profits made off misguided and ill-informed parents (That's another topic, sorry).

    USSF will have the name of this player, as will the local affiliates, but how do they make sure he's on everyone's radar? Right now, there is no central database or agreed best practice for each association/organization to have to report 'criminal players' or misbehavior.

    Someone will find a way to blame USSF, the referee, or one of the state associations in a effort to be compensated or deflect responsibility.

    I feel bad for the referee's family, as he was volunteer, but it is obvious that no one involved in that league (or whatever it was) understood the risks that really existed whenever they suited up. They all were operating 'out of bounds', to use an expression from skiing. That being the case, when the avalanche hit, everything got carried away.

    So unfortunately, the real answer to your question is that individual may be playing in another affiliated/unaffiliated league near you in 3years and no one would know. He may never play in Utah or for the USMNT if that makes you sleep easy.

    1. Anon,

      Thanks for your comment about my use of facts. I deeply appreciate that. While I certainly engage in some significant hyperbole (hopefully for a point), I do try to root it in facts. Thanks for taking note.

      Your articulate point is an excellent one I agree with very strongly.

      Sadly, you are 100% correct that this incident will get lumped into the general stream of consciousness and as you stated, likely land at the feet of US Soccer and there referee, both without any responsibility for the matter at all.

      As you likely know there is a significant amount of unaffiliated soccer (i.e. not under the auspice of US Soccer) out there, and those leagues need administration and referees too. I don't bemoan this fact, and in reality it makes me happy that so many want to participate.

      However, as we have seen here with this incident, and in others even noted on this blog (see July 8th 2013), things can go badly wrong and there is no recourse or responsibility for any such action, except through the legal system which (and I'm not knocking it) does not comprehend the effect of such incidents on all of its participants, referees in particular.

      There is a level of awareness that all referees should have if they decide to engage in unaffiliated activities. Now that said, fear of death should not be one of them, and the result here is tragic.

      I agree with you that when this individual is released from juvenile detention, he will likely play again for another unaffiliated league, possibly even in Utah, maybe even a college team.

      I understand that US Soccer and affiliated state associations do not have a central database, or "investigative arm" to determine if such a player has registered. Heck, there are cases I have personal knowledge of where an affiliated "banned" player has used another player pass to play for years without detection.

      Like you I am guessing, I take no solace in the situation as it is becoming all too prevalent, or at least reported, on the trend of youth players to engage in behavior that is repugnant to The Game.

      Thanks for your comment, and your readership. I truly appreciate both.