Fri, Jan. 17

Referee suffers severe facial injuries while breaking up soccer brawl

Misdemeanor assault charges pending against a local soccer player who kicked a referee in the face during a soccer brawl in July may be upgraded to felony aggravated assault, according to Cottonwood police.

The incident occurred July 23 at the Cottonwood City Soccer Park, 350 S. 12th Street.

According to Cottonwood police, Oscar Rivas, 20, Cottonwood, was initially arrested for simple assault. Police are now reccomending the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office upgrade the charge to a felony because of the severity of the injures. Medical information obtained by authorites confirmed referee Gary Grebenstein suffered facial fractures during the fight, police said.

Police reports state a fight broke out during the match between the goalie on one team and an opposing player. The altercation provoked several other players to get involved. Rivas allegedly struck an opposing player in the head during the scrap and when Grebenstein tried to break up the fight, Rivas allegedly threw him down and kicked him.

Videotape of the game shot by coach Jorge Rivas shows Grebenstein walking briskly to break up the fight before being thrown down or falling to the ground. Players obstructing the view of the fight during the 15-second video make it almost impossible to see Grebenstein being kicked. Witness statements gave conflicting accounts of the incident.

During the initial investigation, Oscar Rivas reportedly told police someone grabbed him around the neck and poked him in the eye. He said he did not see who grabbed him but admitted to kicking the person in the face after the person fell to the ground, not realizing it was Grebenstein.

Caroline Maxine Grebenstein, Gary’s wife, said Friday that her husband suffered seven broken bones to his face resulting in reconstructive surgery. She said that his checkbone had to be reattached to his skull with metal plates. Estimated medical expenses are expected to reach upward of $25,000, she said.

She believes Oscar Rivas kicked her husband maliciously and knew he was the referee when he did it.

"He had plenty of time to look at him before strikng him," she said.

The County Attorney’s Office is expected to review the case this week to determine whether Rivas will be prosceucted for misdemeanor or felony charges.

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