The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

May 8, 2013

Teen charged with homicide by assault in referee's death

SALT LAKE CITY — Family and friends honored the memory of a Utah soccer referee at an emotional funeral Wednesday evening just hours after the teenager who punched him before he fell into a coma was charged with homicide by assault.

After an afternoon wake at a community center, a group of men carried a wooden casket with the remains of Ricardo Portillo in silence about a quarter mile to a nearby Catholic church. There, about 200 people — most wearing white shirts — listened to a service conducted in Spanish.

The Rev. Javier Virgin told them that Portillo completed his life mission by sharing his talent for refereeing with hundreds of teenagers who played in games he worked. Portillo, 46, was born in Mexico, but had lived in Utah for the past 17 years.

"He reached his goal of serving others," Virgin said in Spanish.

Earlier Wednesday, the teenager who police say punched Portillo was charged with homicide by assault, a count issued when an attack unintentionally causes death.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he will seek to try the teen as an adult.

The charge is less serious than manslaughter. It carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison for adults, but penalties can be less for juveniles.

Gill said it became clear in looking at the facts that the teenager's actions didn't amount to murder or manslaughter.

"We did not believe we could demonstrate the premeditation or intent to justify those charges," Gill told The Associated Press. "Those other charges require another type of mental state. We did not believe that type of mental state was present."

The fact that the teenager will soon turn 18, combined with the seriousness of what happened, led Gill to push to have him tried as an adult. The chance of the teen's rehabilitation is minimal, prosecutors said in court documents. A juvenile court judge will ultimately rule on that request.

The 17-year-old, whose name is being withheld by The Associated Press because he's a minor, has been in juvenile detention since April 27 when the incident occurred at a recreational-league soccer match in a Salt Lake City suburb.

It's unknown when he'll make his first court appearance, and the judge has ordered that no information be made public about future proceedings. His attorney, Monica Diaz Greene, did not return phone messages.

Not much is known about the teenager, although Utah courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said he does not have any prior history in juvenile court.

His coach, James Yapias, has said he was playing his first game with the team but has declined to elaborate any further about the young man or his family.

Police reports and court documents paint a picture of a young man who appears to have made a fatally flawed decision in the heat of the moment.

The punch occurred after what often are the most dramatic moments of any soccer game — the issuance of a yellow card by the referee. Portillo whistled the teen for pushing an opposing player during a corner kick.

As soccer players often do — professionals included — the teenager began arguing with Portillo about the call. But then the teenager went past the usual bickering, hitting Portillo in the rear jaw area with a closed fist, court documents state. Portillo was writing the teen's name on his notepad and didn't see it coming.

Portillo fell to the ground and lay in a fetal position, complaining of pain and saying he felt nauseated, police reports show. There were no visible injuries, but when he spit up blood, an ambulance was called.

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

The medical examiner's autopsy concluded he died from injuries related to the blow to the head. The death was ruled a homicide.

The incident occurred in a game held by La Liga Continental de Futbol, an unaffiliated soccer league created in 2009.

The oldest of Portillo's three daughters, Johana Portillo, declined to comment about the charges through family spokesman Tony Yapias.

Friends and family spent Wednesday remembering Ricardo Portillo at an afternoon wake that was to be followed by an evening religious service. The wake attendees wore white T-shirts with a drawing of an orange referee jersey in the middle with the words, "In loving memory of Ricky" around a soccer ball.

After the funeral, Portillo's remains will be returned to his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico.

Tony Yapias said Portillo was well known in the community and once said that he would someday be a famous soccer referee.

"How ironic," he said. "What has happened as a result of this is just that."

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • Taiwan web.jpg Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    The fires were believed caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Congress web.jpg Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

    House Speaker John Boehner accused Democrats of pursuing a “nutso scheme” of trying to seize on the border crisis to try and grant a path to citizenship to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Illinois Unemployment_Hass.jpg As U.S. job market strengthens, many don't feel it

    "If the economy is getting better, I'm not sure for whom. It certainly hasn't trickled down to me." — Douglas Hunter, who earned $14 an hour before the Great Recession and now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at McDonald's.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Texas: Gay-marriage ban best for children

    Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage allows the state to promote the birth and upbringing of children in “stable, lasting relationships,” the state’s attorney general argued Tuesday while asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the ban.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • OKCupid, Facebook not alone in studying consumers

    Dating is hard.

    July 29, 2014

Featured Ads