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New Lenox Man Guilty in Coma Punch Case, Family Rails Against System

The family of Joseph Messina was distraught after a Will County judge found him guilty of punching a Joliet man into a coma more than three years ago.

Three and a half years after he was punched into a coma outside a Mokena bar, Eric Bartels sat propped in a wheelchair in a crowded Joliet courtroom. After the judge found the New Lenox man charged with striking him guilty, Bartels blinked his eyes once.

"There are times when he knows what's going on," Bartels' mother, Janet Bartels of Tinley Park, said after Judge Sarah Jones delivered her verdict against Joseph Messina, 24, Thursday morning. Janet Bartels wasn't sure if that was one of those moments, but said she saw Messina going down coming from the start.

"I knew this would be the outcome all along," she said.

All along began back in July 2009 at the Mokena bar 191 South. Messina and five friends went to 191 South to celebrate his 21st birthday. By the end of the night, Bartels had been punched in the face outside the bar. When he fell, he struck the back of his head against the concrete and fractured his skull.

Friends of Bartels and other witnesses unfamiliar with either man identified Messina as the man who threw the fateful punch. One of these witnesses, a Chicago Heights resident working that night for a car service, said he looked on as Messina

But in the final days of the lengthy trial, a Frankfort friend and former schoolmate of Messina's came forward and said his pal, whom he described as a "brother," did not actually punch Bartels. The , Michael Glielmi.

Glielmi, 24, formerly of Manhattan but now a resident of St. Louis, showed up in court with a lawyer of his own after Raymond accused him of throwing the punch. Glielmi .

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow issued a statement on how repulsed he was by the crime.

“This was a senseless and unprovoked act of aggression on the part of Joseph Messina that literally destroyed Eric Bartels’ life. The defendant’s conduct—striking the victim while he lay helpless on the ground and then cheering victoriously over him—reflects the culture of violence woven into every aspect of our entertainment and media,” Glasgow said. “Fortunately, Judge Jones found him guilty after weighing the totality of the evidence as well as the crediblility of defense witnesses. She wisely saw through the fraudulent statements made by a defense witness, who changed his story in order to blame someone else three years after the crime.”

When he talked to detectives in 2009, Raymond said he had not seen who punched Bartels. But once on the witness stand, he sang a different tune. After the verdict, Janet Bartels said she found Raymond's testimony "extremely disturbing."

While Janet Bartels was dubious and troubled by what Raymond had to say, Messina's father, Joseph Messina Sr., still blamed Glielmi for committing the crime that could land his son in prison for as long as five years when he is sentenced on March 6.

"We thought he would come forward and do the right thing," Messina Sr. said of Glielmi, claiming his son's former friend hired a lawyer before the Messina family retained counsel.

"How much doubt do you have to have?" the elder Messina wanted to know, pointing his finger at prosecutors he claims focused on the wrong man.

"There's too much political garbage that goes on with a case," he said.

"All the evidence goes down the tubes," he said. "They didn't go by any of the evidence."

Messina Sr. said his son was holding up well after the conviction but that "it's not going to last."

"My son didn't do this. He didn't do it," he said. "It's completely ludicrous."

Messina's sister, Nicole Messina, was also visibly upset after the verdict.

"He's such a good kid. He's been the best big brother I could ever ask for," Nicole Messina said. "He's been so strong through all of this. He's been so brave."

EE January 06, 2013 at 07:02 AM
Is this the Joe Messina Sr. who grew up in the st.Bede area? If it is, I'm not surprised to read about his son. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree is RIGHT!
Despiser of Obama January 07, 2013 at 05:34 AM
This scum should have gotten life in prison. He gave the victim life in his own body.
ingorance January 07, 2013 at 10:46 PM
haha mary you my friend are the one who is full of crap. army actually has a few facts right especially with khaki info. also what you dont read in the paper is one of their so called great witnesses couldn't id joe oh and also testified that it was the kid in khakis who hit him. should have been in court to hear that but yup they got the right guy mhmm. mikes lawyer was at joes hearing the next day before joe even got a lawyer. fishy? also mikes lawyer told police they had the wrong guy but they refused to listen. and further more how is glasgow working hard to prosecute the friends? you can't get them with obstruction and since steve admitted he lied to police you cant get him with perjury. good try on sounding educated on that as well. learn some facts thanks oh and btw the previously mentioned witness wasnt the only one to say the guy that hit him had khakis on and they were the prosecutions witnesses. joe is the scapegoat end of story. dont believe everything you read in newspapers cuz you can write novels and magazines about what you dont read in em
Mary Carumba January 07, 2013 at 11:24 PM
ignorance, or army, whoever you are, No, you are full of crap. There is no scapegoat. Messina the sucker punching coward is going to jail. Lies didn't help him during the trial and they're not going to help him now. Don't believe Glasgow isn't pursuing charges against these clowns if you don't want to. Don't be surprised when they're arrested either. You sound like just a big a loser as the Messinas.
LWC Alumni 08 January 10, 2013 at 03:05 AM
I know everyone who is siding with Eric obviously knew him and was a good friend and it is beyond terrible what happened. But I knew Joe Messina in High School and he truly is one of the nicest and most loved guys around. It could have happened to anyone while out drinking. Not many people will ever really know the full truth, and you guys act like he doesn't feel bad, but I'm sure he would do anything to take that night back. Things happen and we can not reenact the past so hopefully others will learn and maybe after his sentence he will reach out to other people so it does not happen again. But for those of you who do not know Joe, I'm sure he knows what he did was wrong but he really is an amazing guy and friend. And I know he was the best big brother to his little sister. She looked up to him so much!

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