NEW YORK (AP) - The Ecuadorian soccer referee involved in Italy's controversial elimination from the 2002 World Cup was sentenced Friday to 2½ years in prison on heroin-smuggling charges.
Before hearing the sentence in federal court in Brooklyn, Byron Moreno apologized to his family and asked for forgiveness.
"From the bottom of my heart, I am very sorry," Moreno said, choking up and wiping away tears.
Moreno, 41, had faced a minimum of nearly 3 1 / 2years under advisory sentencing guidelines. But his lawyer argued that he deserved a break in part because he had been a model inmate since his arrest in September 2010 -- even starting a soccer program at a federal jail in Brooklyn.
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman agreed to give Moreno a lighter punishment after prosecutors said they wouldn't oppose it.
Moreno ran into trouble at John F. Kennedy International Airport after arriving on a commercial flight from his native Ecuador. During a routine inspection, he "became visibly nervous" and a customs agent felt "hard objects on the defendant's stomach, back and both of his legs," according to a criminal complaint.
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