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Judge: Utah teen accused in soccer ref's punching death stays in custody

Published June 14, 2013 10:47 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The teen charged with killing a soccer referee pleaded not guilty Friday and was ordered to remain in detention as he awaits a hearing to determine whether his case will remain in juvenile court or he will be certified as an adult.

Meanwhile, referee Ricardo Portillo's three daughters are preparing for their first Father's Day without him.

"I couldn't believe I met the person who took my dad's life," Johana Portillo said Friday after the first court appearance of the 17-year-old goalie accused of punching Portillo over a yellow card during an April soccer match in Taylorsville. "I do forgive him because that's what my dad taught me. I sympathize for his family."

The teen was taken back to detention after his arraignment despite his attorney's request to let him go home. He has been incarcerated since April 27, when Portillo was hospitalized after the alleged attack during the youth league soccer match. Portillo, 46, slipped into a coma and died a week later.

"While the consequences are obviously horrendous and significant, the single action … being alleged is that [the teen] punched someone," said Monte Sleight, the teen's attorney, in arguing for his release. He noted that the teen has no prior history of violence and has missed extensive schoolwork, including three Advanced Placement tests he planned to take.

Prosecutor Patricia Cassell noted that the teen left the soccer field after the incident, although a coach instructed him to stay. But Sleight said the boy and his father left because tensions were escalating; they went to police shortly thereafter.

Third District Juvenile Court Judge Kimberly K. Hornak did not address whether the boy was a flight risk but denied the release request, saying a homicide charge was too serious.

"It's about as serious as it gets," Hornak said.

Outside the courtroom, the teen's sister said her brother's image in the media "is not the person we know and love," describing him as a "kind, loving son and brother."

"We want to tell the Portillo family how sorry we are and how horrible we all feel about what has happened here," she said. "[The teen] and our family have thought of little else beyond the loss you must be feeling. We cannot imagine how much you must miss your father and we hope you can find peace."

Hornak will decide whether the teen will be certified as an adult after a hearing set for Aug. 5 and 6. Hornak ruled on Friday that the hearing will be open to the public with the exception of testimony relating to medical, psychological or psychiatric reports, or family or social summary reports. That information is protected under court rules, Hornak said. All other portions of the hearing, including testimony about the incident itself, will be open.

Hornak's ruling came at the end of a hearing requested by a media coalition, including The Salt Lake Tribune, seeking access to the arraignment and the certification process. Sleight sought to close the hearing.

The Tribune does not normally name juveniles charged with a crime unless the case is transferred to adult court.






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