Utah soccer teen pleads guilty to a fatally flawed decision; ‘LovetheRefs’ for victim’s family, good sportsmanship

SALT LAKE CITY  – The 17-year-old Salt Lake City teen, Jose Domingo Teran, accused of killing a soccer referee with a single punch, pleaded guilty Monday to homicide by assault.

According to police reports and court documents, the punch occurred on April 27, after the issuance of a yellow card by Ricardo Portillo, the referee who was officiating the teen’s soccer match. Portillo called the foul on Teran after the teen pushed an opposing player during a corner kick. At which point the teenager began arguing with Portillo about the call. During the heat of the moment, the teen then hit Portillo in the rear jaw area with a closed fist, court documents state, as Portillo was writing the teen’s name on his notepad and didn’t see it coming. Portillo fell to the ground and laid in a fetal position, complaining of pain and nausea, police reports show, and after he spit up blood, an ambulance was called.

Portillo was taken to a hospital in fair condition, and hours later, he went into a coma. He never regained consciousness, and he died one week later. The medical examiner’s autopsy concluded Portillo died from injuries related to the blow to the head. The death was then ruled a homicide.

Just three months short of his 18th birthday, prosecutors had filed a motion to have Teran stand trial as an adult. The hearing scheduled to do so, was canceled, as they withdrew that motion in exchange for the teen admitting to the third-degree felony.

Teran was charged with homicide by assault, a count issued when an attack unintentionally causes death. When asked by the Third District Juvenile Court Judge Kimberly Hornak what happened, the teen said softly in reply, “I was frustrated, hit the ref, and caused his death.”

The teenager will remain in a juvenile detention center, where a juvenile parole board will decide the amount of time he’ll be detained there. Hornak said she will recommend that Teran serve the maximum time available – which is just more than three years until the teen turns 21.

Hornak ordered Teran to keep a picture of Portillo in his cell and to write weekly letters to Portillo’s three daughters about how he’s improving himself, so that he’s reminded constantly of the pain he caused the family.

In one moment of rage you took away his life, you changed the life of all of his daughters, and you changed your life and your family’s life forever,” Hornak said.

In honor of Ricardo Portillo, lovetheref.org has been created to rally support for the Portillo family, and to help bring an end to sports-related violence by reminding fans around the world that “sports are about the passion, not aggression.”

“Whether it’s taking place on the field or in the stands, violent behavior by fans or players is a threat to all organized sports, and belittles the principles of sportsmanship and camaraderie on which these games were founded,” Attorney Jason Velez said in a statement released on behalf of the Portillo Family in May. Velez, who is Executive Director of lovetheref.org, said, “the rules of the game and the officials who enforce them help everyone win. Without Refs, we’d have no major leagues, no stadiums, no Friday nights under the lights or hot dogs and peanuts at the ballpark with the kids. In order to win, we must have enforceable rules. It’s really a lesson for life.”

LovetheRefs invites all sports fans and the community-at-large to join in this campaign and support the Portillo Family by visiting lovetherefs.org to make a donation, get a T-shirt or wristband, and learn how to implement the LOVE THE REFS initiative in your own local sports communities.


Email: kscott@olwm.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Brian Craig August 7, 2013 at 3:40 am

    3 years for killing a man? Granted, the “death” was unintentional…but assault & battery was not and would probably carry a harsher penalty if he was charged as an adult…which he should have been.

    And what idiot decided that the dead mans family would ever want to hear from this pathetic person ever again…much less every week?

  • Ron Wild August 7, 2013 at 6:37 am

    I think three years is an adequate sentence for a hormonal teenager in afit of rage, the killing was unintentional, but the consequences disastrous. However, making the youth keep a picture of his victim and the writing of letters to his family is cruel beyond belief, and may just push the youth into irreparable mental illness. He doesn’t sound like a terrible truth who needs to address violent tendencies. Had the punch just had the desired effect of causing immediate short term pain and discomfort. He would probably just paid a fine and be banned from the sport. Had the referee been hit accidentally by the ball and suffered the same out come his family would be just as devastated. It is not necessary to run a young life any more than he has ruined it himself with his reckless and violent act.

  • Gunther August 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

    He needs to spend at least 20-25 yrs in jail so he has time to think about his actions. Sure every one has moments of frustration and anger, but acting out and causing death is a completely different situation.

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