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High School Soccer Player Pleads Guilty in Death of Referee

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A 17-year-old Utah soccer player accused of killing a referee earlier this year pleaded guilty on Monday to third-degree felony homicide by assault, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

After the still-unidentified teenager submitted his guilty plea, Judge Kimberly Hornak sentenced him to remain in juvenile prison, where he's been kept since late April. A juvenile parole board will determine exactly how much time he spends there, according to the Associated Press, with a maximum sentence lasting until his 21st birthday.

The teenager was initially accused of punching 46-year-old referee Ricardo Portillo while serving as a goalkeeper during a recreation soccer game at Eisenhower Junior High in Salt Lake County, Utah, on April 27. After Portillo gave the player a "yellow card" for pushing an opponent, the player reportedly began arguing with Portillo and punched him once in the face, according to a police report obtained by the Tribune.

Portillo was taken to the hospital, where he slipped into critical condition due to swelling in his brain. He soon lost consciousness, fell into a coma, and eventually died on May 4.

To further remind the player about the consequences of his actions, Hornak required him to hang a picture of Portillo on his wall at the juvenile facility. He also must write the Portillo family one letter each week about how he's improving himself, according to the AP.

"The death of someone is the most serious crime," the judge told the player, according to the Tribune. "[Portillo's] only crime was being present to take part in an act of community service. In one moment of rage, you took away his life. You changed the life of all his daughters. You changed your life and the life of your family."

The player's attorneys struck the deal with prosecutors to ensure that he would not be tried in court as an adult. Prosecutors initially sought to certify the teenager as an adult and have the case prosecuted in adult criminal court.

Photo: Mourners carry the casket of Ricardo Portillo along a street following a public wake to the funeral service at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, in Salt Lake City this past May. The teenager charged with killing the Utah soccer referee over a call during a game last spring 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. (Rick Bowmer/AP-File)

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