Brazilian Soccer Player Charged with Attempted Murder

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William Ribeiro, a Brazilian soccer player for Sport Club São Paulo, has been charged with attempted murder after kicking a referee, Rodrigo Crivellaro, during a match against Guarani-RS earlier this month. Crivellaro was knocked unconscious and had to be escorted off to a hospital.

Where exactly did this occur?

Brazil has two independent and simultaneous soccer pyramid systems: the national system, Série A-D, and the state system, where each state is free to operate their own league. The national league is the more prestigious and competitive, but most state teams still have a lot of local support. Sport Club São Paulo plays in Campeonato Gaúcho Série A2, the second level of the Rio Grande do Sul state league. The team competed in the highest national league, Série A, three times in the years of 1979, 1980, and 1982. Their team is based in  Rio Grande, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which has a population of around 200,000 people.

What happened during the match?

Shortly into the second half, Crivellaro penalized William Ribeiro with a yellow card and awarded a free kick against Sport Club São Paulo. Ribeiro is seen immediately punching the referee in the face, whereafter he plummets to the ground. Once down, Ribeiro launches a powerful kick directly to Crivellaro’s head and neck area, rendering him unconscious. Players from both teams rush the two men and attempt to stop the confrontation as the referee lies motionless. Crivellaro was then taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he stayed the night and was discharged the next morning. Later, Crivellaro spoke to media of the incident saying, “I don’t really remember (what happened). My refereeing colleagues told me that I gave him a yellow card. He punched me in the face, I fell to the ground, got kicked, and passed out.” The match was halted completely after the incident and did not resume until the next day, with opposing club Guarani-RS winning 1-0.

How is this being prosecuted?

Ribeiro was arrested following the confrontation by the police chief of Venancio Aires, but was released on bail a few days later. Around the same time, the state of Rio Grande do Sul announced it had opened an investigation into the attack. Police investigator Vinicius Assuncao made comments to Brazilian press that “[Ribeiro’s] attack was very strong and violent, kicking the referee in the head and making him pass out. The referee had no chance of defending himself.” The officer in charge of the case announced “I decided to charge him with attempted murder because, in my judgement of the situation, he risked inflicting a lethal injury.”

Unfortunately, it was difficult to find a detailed treatise on Brazil’s appropriate penal code for this offense. For a brief comparison to the common law of the United States, an individual could be found guilty of murder if a homicide had been committed with actions that merely showed a reckless disregard for human life. However, for attempted murder, there would need to be conduct that was designed to culminate in the commission of the offense (murder). but that had failed. Prosecutors would need to show that the act itself was intentional (the physical act of kicking), and that the individual possessed the specific intent of committing the completed offense (causing the death of another). Whatever legal challenges Ribeiro faces in the Brazilian courts, he undoubtedly faces serious charges. No lawyer appeared to defend him and the case is now being handled by a state public defender.

What other repercussions does Riberio face?

Not surprisingly, Sport Club São Paulo ended Riberio’s contract and he has been released from the team. Their official statement reads: “The aggressor athlete’s contract is summarily terminated. Furthermore, all possible and legal measures in relation to the fact will be taken.”


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