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Family of teen charged in death of referee apologizes

By Brady McCombs

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:53 a.m. HST, Jun 15, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY >> The family of a Utah teenager charged in the death of a soccer referee apologized today to the man's family for the first time, saying it cannot imagine how much they miss their father.

The 17-year-old's sister read the apology shortly after a hearing in which her brother pleaded not guilty to the charge of homicide by assault. At the hearing, a juvenile court judge denied a request by the teenager's attorney to let him out of detention while the case plays out in court.

Police say the teenager, whose name The Associated Press is withholding because he's a minor, punched 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo in the head on April 27 after Portillo called a foul on him in a soccer game. Portillo died after a weeklong coma.

The teenager was charged last month with homicide by assault. Prosecutors want to try him as an adult.

The teenager's sister said the boy and his family feel terrible about what happened. Choking up while reading a prepared statement, the young woman offered the family's first words toward Portillo's family.

We "have thought of little else beyond the loss you must be feeling," she said. "We cannot imagine how much you must miss your father and we hope you can find peace."

She said the image portrayed in accounts of the incident are not the boy they know. She called him a kind, loving son and brother.

During the hearing, the sister and the teenager's mother sat in the front row as a translator whispered what was being said into the ear of the mother. The boy sat flanked by his attorneys, wearing an orange shirt and sporting long, black hair.

His attorney, Monte Sleight, told Juvenile Court Judge Kimberly Hornak that the boy is a good kid who excelled in school — taking AP courses — and simply made one horrible mistake. In making a case that his client should be allowed to go home to his family, Sleight scoffed at the notion his client was a flight risk or a threat to the community. He said the boy comes from a hard-working, stable family who has lived in Utah for 20 years. He pointed out that the boy turned himself into police following the incident.

Patricia Cassell, a Salt Lake County deputy district attorney, said the boy is very much a flight risk. She pointed out that he and his father fled from the soccer field after the incident — before they even knew Portillo was in critical condition. Now that he's facing possible prison time, the boy and his family are definitely a flight risk, Cassell said.

In response to a comment from Sleight that it was "silly" to call the boy violent and a risk to flee considering his clean history, Cassell shot back. "It is not silly what he did. He took a father from this family."

Hornak said she's impressed by the boy's academic record, lack of violent history and strong family dynamic. But the seriousness of the crime and the consequences he's facing carried more weight in her decision, she said.

Portillo's daughters sat in the first pew on the opposite side of the Salt Lake City courtroom from the boy's family. After the hearing, family spokesman Tony Yapias said they were pleased with the decision to keep the boy in custody.

Portillo's oldest daughter, Johana Portillo, said it was hard to see the accused teenager in court.

"It was a lot of mixed emotions: I couldn't believe I met the person who took my dad's life," she said. "But I will just leave everything in God's hands. There is no way for me to judge him. I forgive him for what he did to my dad because that's what my dad taught me to be: a forgiving person."

Hornak also ruled that some hearings in this case will be open to the public. The first part of a hearing scheduled for Aug. 5 to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with the charges will be open. But the second part of that hearing, in which they discuss the teenager's social, psychological and family history, will be closed to protect his privacy, she said.

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olos73 wrote:
My ALOHA to the Portillo ohana. This boy, eventhough he has a clean record still needs to be locked up and held accountable. "Kind, loving, son and brother." It only takes 1 incident to change all that. Make him learn, make him learn early before he does No. 2, No. 3,... All criminals start at 1. If he cannot handle his temper at a soccer game, imagine how he acts in public. No respect for authority, too bad. "He and his father fled from the soccer field after the incident." If he's such a "good boy" why didn't he apologize to Mr. Portillo then? He must've learned from his father. Responsible and caring people would apologize on the spot. Not leave the field. This was only a soccer game. Eventhough he punched Mr. Portillo, I would've looked at him differently if he apologized, then. Show some sportsmanship and respect to the referee. But no, they ran. Good call judge, keep him in detention. Too bad you cannot lock the father up, too.
on June 14,2013 | 02:40PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
The apology is a public relations stunt to try to get potential jurors sympathy, if in this case the murderer is tried as an adult. If the murderer were really sorry, he would have stayed at the scene of the crime. If the murderer was really sorry he would have reached an agreement with the prosecutor's office, own up to what he did and plead guilty.
on June 14,2013 | 02:49PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
I made a mistake in my previous posting. I meant to say that if the murderer and his father were really sorry they would have stayed at the scene of the crime. It seems that in this case, the fruit falleth not far from the tree. Only a father who has criminal leanings would drive the getaway car and whisk the murderer away from the scene of the crime.
on June 14,2013 | 02:53PM
lowtone123 wrote:
Why can't we have judges like that in Hawaii?
on June 14,2013 | 03:34PM
olos73 wrote:
Totally agree...If we did, Crimestoppers wouldn't have to ask the public to help find Joe Blow with 2 dozen convictions. Less criminals roaming the streets, but...neva happen.
on June 14,2013 | 07:16PM
Ikavuka wrote:
An apology is not an answer for this mindless tragedy, caused by this teenager. Justice must runs its course, in a court of law.
on June 14,2013 | 09:11PM
pandadaddy wrote:
Lived in Utah for 20 years and still needs an interpreter? Pathetic.
on June 14,2013 | 09:58PM
mrluke wrote:
First thing that came to my mind.
on June 15,2013 | 07:23AM
hikine wrote:
The family apologized but the perp didn't! What a bunch of hogwash! The kid intentionally knew where to hit the ref!!
on June 15,2013 | 12:54AM
DABLACK wrote:
Wonder how good the kid's family can act ! Hope the jury don't get fooled !!
on June 15,2013 | 05:41AM
sumoroach wrote:
Charge the boy as a adult manslaughter in the first degree 15 to life. That is what a apology is worth, but the boy didn't apology give him second degree murder as an adult.25 to life.
on June 15,2013 | 06:29AM
HOSSANA wrote:
What a farce that the suspect's sis had to apologize instead of the boy and after living in Utah or the U.S. for 20 yrs. they still need an interpreter...well, Obamma, thank you for your compassion for immigrants..of course, not all are the same as this punk of a kid but still, please don't give me this hogwash that he was a good, kind, student taking AP classes....he committed a felony, he took the life of a family member and that's good enough for him to be incarcerated...nothing more and nothing less....should he get probation instead of incarceration, then this tragedy is nothing but a travesty of justice.....actually, he should be tried as an adult and let the criminal justice system take its course...hopefully, nothing less than 5 but certainly more than 15 yrs. incarcerated.
on June 15,2013 | 08:27AM
Yukio wrote:
Wait, this incident happened on April 27, and the boy's family is only publicly apologizing now to the referee's family? It makes it look like they are only doing it so the boy gets out on bail. We are taught to apologize for far less serious things in life. This apology was too long in coming.
on June 15,2013 | 09:05AM
COlohe1 wrote:
Protect his privacy?!?! His nmae should be published so people know who comitted this crime, minor or adult!!!
on June 16,2013 | 06:44AM
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