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Soccer Player In Referee Slaying To Get New Judge

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - A  judge has recused herself from the case of a metro Detroit soccer player charged in the one-punch slaying of a referee.

In stepping aside, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway disclosed a previous client-attorney relationship with defendant Bassel Saad's lawyer, Cyril Hall — although that was not the primary reason she opted to step down.

Judge Hathaway was more concerned with being fair in light of her strong feelings of good sportsmanship —  track and field athlete through college, and as an avid sports observer today.

Hathaway, who said she considering being a judge similar to bring a referee, has twice recently recused herself in cases if athletes and/or athletics

The Wayne County prosecutor's office says an update will be issued when a new judge is assigned.

saad in court
Bassel Saad, left, and attornies are seen in court on Nov. 6, 2014. (credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ)

Prosecutors and police say the 36-year-old Dearborn man punched 44-year-old John Bieniewicz on June 29 as Bieniewicz was preparing to red-card and eject Saad during an adult recreational league game in Livonia.

Saad's second-degree murder trial is set for Dec. 8, but that could be delayed due to the change.

Hall has said his client is sorry for his actions, but called prosecutors' second-degree murder case weak.

He told WWJ's Mike Campbell and other reporters he's eager for the process to get underway.

"Well, he's in custody so obviously he'd like to have his day in court as soon as possible, and I would like to give it to him as soon as possible," said Hall, adding that he does plan to ask the new judge, when assigned, that the charge against his client be reduced.

"I believe there was not any principled reason — and it didn't make good sense to me — the basis that [Judge Hathaway] used for binding this case over," Hall said. "In effect, what she indicated was the mere fact that the individual was punched, that [Saad] could've believe that the person was going to die; and I just do not believe that."

Bieniewicz lived in Westland with his wife and two sons.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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