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Teen pleads guilty in referee's death

By CNN Staff
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Tue August 6, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Teenager pleaded guilty in the death of referee Ricardo Portillo
  • Judge recommends a sentence of three years
  • Portillo died from his injuries a week after he was punched in the face

(CNN) -- A 17-year-old soccer player in Utah pleaded guilty Monday to homicide by assault in the death of referee Ricardo Portillo, an official said.

A judge ordered the teenager, who has not been named publicly, to keep a picture of Portillo in his cell for the remainder of his time in juvenile jail.

The judge recommended a sentence of three years, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

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In addition, the judge ordered the teen to write weekly letters to Portillo's family members, telling them what steps he is taking to return to normal life.

On April 27, Portillo, 46, was refereeing a game of Fut International, a Hispanic soccer league for children between ages 5 and 17, in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville.

The death of Dutch amateur linesman Richard Nieuwenhuizen shocked a nation. Niewenhuizen was beaten to death following a youth match, with six teenagers and a father set to face trial over the killing. Nieuwenhuizen's death prompted a rule change in Dutch soccer, meaning that only team captains can speak with referees -- any other player who does so will be booked. The death of Dutch amateur linesman Richard Nieuwenhuizen shocked a nation. Niewenhuizen was beaten to death following a youth match, with six teenagers and a father set to face trial over the killing. Nieuwenhuizen's death prompted a rule change in Dutch soccer, meaning that only team captains can speak with referees -- any other player who does so will be booked.
Tragic death
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He cited a player for an infraction and issued him a cautionary "yellow card." A second infraction would result in the player's ejection from the game.

Slain referee risked violence for 'his passion'

The 17-year-old player, police said, turned around and punched Portillo in the face.

At first, authorities thought Portillo suffered only minor injuries. But at the hospital, doctors discovered serious internal head injuries.

For seven days he remained in critical condition. He later died from his injuries.

Portillo had three daughters and three grandchildren, who live in Mexico. He moved to the United States 16 years ago.

"I just need time to heal. It's a lot of pain that this kid caused my whole family, especially my sisters and I," Johana Portillo, his daughter, told CNN in May.

"I will forgive this kid because it's only in God's hands. ... But right now, it's too soon for me to forgive."

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CNN's Chuck Johnston, Jackie Castillo and Josh Levs contributed to this report.

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