Man convicted of near-fatal punch asks for a new trial
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org March 6, 2013 6:28PM
Joe Messina, of New Lenox, walks into the Will County Courthouse for his sentencing hearing. He was convicted of aggravated battery in January. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: April 8, 2013 7:44AM
The New Lenox high school football standout convicted in January of dishing out a near-fatal beating deserves a new trial, his lawyer argued Wednesday.
Will County Judge Sarah Jones found Joseph Messina, 24, guilty of three counts of aggravated battery on Jan. 3. He was charged after he was arrested for punching Eric Bartels, 29, of Tinley Park, outside 191 West in Mokena in the summer of 2009.
Authorities said Messina punched Bartels so hard he fell and fractured his skull on the pavement, an injury that left him paralyzed.
Messina wasn’t able to present the defense he wanted because Michael Glielmi, who was out with Messina the night he encountered Bartels outside the bar, refused to testify at his trial.
Messina’s case was scheduled for a sentencing hearing Wednesday, but his attorney, Dave Carlson, presented a motion asking Jones to give him a new trial or acquit him because of Glielmi’s refusal to testify and other issues.
Jones said she would consider the arguments and give her decision on April 4.
Several of Messina’s friends testified during the trial that they lied to the police investigating the crime. It wasn’t Messina who threw the punch, they said in court; it was their buddy, Glielmi.
Glielmi — who played football alongside Messina at Lincoln-Way Central High School, both star athletes who were coached by Glielmi’s father, Rob Glielmi — hired a lawyer immediately after the incident and never said a word about it. Formerly of Manhattan, Glielmi has since moved to St. Louis.
Prosecutors believe they have the right guy.
The testimony from Messina’s friends was not believable, they said, especially compared with the testimony of the independent witnesses who watched from a parked vehicle as the fight unfolded. Prosecutors also pointed out that witnesses who were in the thick of the confrontation said they did not remember seeing Glielmi that night.
Messina now faces probation or up to five years in prison if Jones denies his motion for a new trial. If the motion is denied, she said, she would immediately proceed with Messina’s sentencing hearing.
Before the hearing began Wednesday, Jones told attorneys for both sides that she received an email from Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow’s secretary, forwarding the statement Glasgow issued following her verdict.
Jones said she did not read the statement — which called Messina’s actions “a senseless and unprovoked act of aggression on the part of Joseph Messina that literally destroyed Eric Bartels’ life” — and replied with an email asking that they not send her any news releases.