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More friends say Messina wasn’t attacker

Joseph P. Messina

Joseph P. Messina

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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:28AM



Joseph Messina’s defense got more help Friday from some friends whose testimony pointed to another of their buddies as the person who threw the punch that left a man paralyzed.

Messina, 24, of New Lenox, is on trial before a Will County Circuit Court judge for aggravated battery concerning a July 2009 incident outside a Mokena bar at the end of a night of drinking on his 21st birthday.

Testimony from three of his friends identified Michael Glielmi, 24, as striking Eric Bartels that night and later admitting it as they drove away from 191 South while Messina was hauled off to jail. The three acknowledged that they never told police or prosecutors previously about Glielmi being the assailant.

Glielmi won’t be giving his version of events. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and won’t be forced to testify.

Other witnesses testified earlier that it was Messina who punched Bartels, 29, of Joliet, in a crowded scene just outside the doors of the tavern. Bartels was left paralyzed, blind and mute from the impact of his head hitting the ground.

“The sound of his head hitting the concrete, hitting the ground — it was a sound I’ll never forget,” Steve Raymond, 26, of Frankfort, told the judge Friday. “It haunts me to this day.”

But Raymond, who choked up repeatedly during his testimony, said he never told police that he saw Glielmi throw the punch.

Raymond took long pauses while sobbing as he told defense attorney Dave Carlson that he decided he should tell what really happened after his sister suffered brain injuries from a motorcycle accident. But he conceded during cross-examination that it was more than a year before he mentioned Glielmi’s involvement, and only after Carlson called him during preparations for the trial.

The trial was interrupted Thursday when Raymond initially gave the surprise testimony regarding Glielmi, which contradicted his earlier account to police that he did not see what happened that night. Judge Sarah Jones wanted to determine if Glielmi would refuse to testify. When Raymond was back on the stand Friday, it was decided Glielmi would not testify.

Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Fitzgerald on Friday repeatedly questioned Raymond on why he let Messina, a friend so close that Raymond described him as “my brother,” sit in jail for two months without telling police that he saw another man throw the punch.

“I thought the situation was too bad already,” Raymond said. “As time went by, nothing happened. Mike (Glielmi) had a lawyer. ... I had no idea what to do.”

Even after Messina got out of jail, Raymond said, he never talked with him about seeing Glielmi hit Bartels.

Another of the friends out that night, Sean Plarsky, 24, of New Lenox, testified that he was holding Messina in his arms because his friend had been hit or shoved moments before Bartels was punched. Plarsky said he saw Bartels get hit from “the corner of my eye” but was not sure who struck him.

All three of the friends said it was evident that Glielmi threw the punch from his behavior on the ride from the bar.

“Mike was really shook up,” said Andy Paver, 25, of New Lenox. “He was real frantic. He kept saying, ‘Joe can’t get in trouble for this. Joe can’t take the fall.’”

Paver said he did not see who hit Bartels but described Glielmi’s words while leaving the bar as amounting to a confession. He did not describe Glielmi’s behavior to police when questioned the following day, Paver said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Chris Koch asked Paver, “Did you ever go back to the police department and say, ‘Hey, I forgot to tell you, Mike Glielmi confessed to this crime?’”

“No,” Paver answered.

The trial resumes at 1 p.m. on Monday.



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