Bar attack trial starts
By Jon Seidel Sun-Times Media
Joseph P. Messina
Nearly three years after he was attacked outside a Mokena bar, Eric Bartels’ mother said he still can’t see, speak or eat.
And though he can hear, she said he doesn’t know that the man accused of throwing the punches that paralyzed him went on trial Monday before a Will County Circuit Court judge.
But Jan Bartels said she will be in court every day for the trial of Joseph P. Messina, 23, of New Lenox, who’s charged with aggravated battery in the July 2009 attack on her son.
Prosecutors said the fight happened outside the 191 South bar after a brief discussion between Bartels and Messina.
Anna Minette, a former Frankfort resident and friend of Bartels, testified Monday that they were leaving the bar when she noticed that a man standing in front of her, Messina, had a spot on his shirt and she told him about it.
“He turned to me and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s just blood,’ ” Minette said.
She said Bartels told Messina he “should take care of that,” and Messina then looked at Bartels and yelled at him, “It’s gonna be your blood.”
Minette said she felt uncomfortable, tried to push Bartels away and told a friend of Messina’s “to please get his friend out of here.” But then she heard a “loud, crack noise” behind her and saw Bartels lying on his back in the parking lot.
Bartels, who was 26 at the time, was taken to Silver Cross Hospital with a fractured skull and brain damage.
A Mokena police officer told Judge Sarah Jones that he arrived outside the bar and found Messina hiding in a white conversion van behind the driver’s seat.
He said he had to threaten the driver with a stun gun to keep him from pulling away, had to point the stun gun to get Messina out of the van and had to subdue Messina on the ground after he ignored another order to get down.
Jan Bartels said nothing she heard during Monday’s testimony surprised her.
“It wasn’t that difficult for me in there,” she said. “It’s been difficult when I’ve seen my son almost dying.”