New Lenox man gets 30 months’ probation for 2009 attack in Mokena
BY JANET LUNDQUIST email@example.com August 13, 2013 10:17PM
Joseph P. Messina
Updated: September 15, 2013 6:33AM
A New Lenox man who was found guilty of throwing a punch four years ago that nearly killed a Mokena man was placed Tuesday on 30 months’ probation.
Will County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Jones said she did not believe Joseph Messina, 25, deserved prison time for striking the man during a brief confrontation outside a Mokena bar in July 2009.
“A prison sentence cannot take away the pain of a family who has had a loss,” Jones said, adding that the incident has forever changed the lives of Messina and the victim, Eric Bartels.
In January, Jones found Messina guilty of three counts of aggravated battery after a bench trial.
Prosecutors said Messina was celebrating his 21st birthday when he and Bartels, now 30, got into a dispute outside 191 South and Messina punched him, knocking Bartels to the pavement. He then straddled Bartels on the ground, hit him a second time and raised his arms in victory, according to prosecutors.
After hitting Bartels, authorities said Messina hid in his parents’ van outside the bar until police told him to get out.
“It’s a very serious thing you did, Mr. Messina. Very serious,” Jones said before handing down the probationary sentence.
Jones also ordered Messina to perform 250 hours of community service, pay restitution of $630 in each of the 30 months, forfeit his $20,000 bond, abstain from alcohol during his probation and have no contact with Bartels’ family.
After the sentencing, members of the Bartels and Messina families as well as their attorneys declined to comment, but Bartels’ mother, Janet Bartels, was overheard saying, “I think it’s obvious how disgusted we are.”
State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said he was very disappointed in the sentence.
“We believe that the evidence was there to justify a prison sentence,” he said. “This injury that was inflicted on Eric Bartels was just short of murder.”
Glasgow said he’s proposing a change to the aggravated battery law to require a prison term if someone causes a severe and permanent disability that requires a lifetime of continuous care.
“Eric Bartels was injured as dramatically as you can possibly be and still maintain your life,” he said.
Bartels is a quadriplegic who cannot see or speak as a result of the injury he suffered after being struck by Messina.
As part of Messina’s sentencing hearing Aug. 6, prosecutors showed a video detailing a day in Bartels’ life. The 6-foot-6 man needs 24-hour care and is fed through a tube in his stomach. He is moved from his bed to his chair by a mechanical lift, with help from a nursing assistant.