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Trial resumes for New Lenox man accused of paralyzing punch

Joseph P. Messina

Joseph P. Messina

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Updated: January 6, 2013 9:37AM



A bench trial for a New Lenox man accused of delivering a paralyzing punch to another man three years ago is scheduled to resume Wednesday in Will County court.

Joseph Messina, 24, is accused of punching Eric J. Bartels, 29, as they were leaving a Mokena bar in July 2009, causing Bartels to fracture his skull on the parking lot pavement and suffer a severe brain injury that left him paralyzed, blind and mute.

Three years later, Bartels’ mother said he still can’t see or speak. She cares for him in her home.

Messina’s bench trial was postponed in June while Will County prosecutors tried now-convicted and sentenced family killer Christopher Vaughn this summer.

Prosecutors said the fight happened July 25, 2009, outside 191 South in Mokena.

In June, Anna Minette, a former Frankfort resident and friend of Bartels’, testified at the start of Messina’s bench trial.

Minette said she was standing beside him outside the bar as they prepared to leave.

Minette said she noticed a man standing in front of her — Messina — had a spot on his shirt, and she tried to tell him about it.

“He turned to me and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s just blood,’” Minette said.

She said she exchanged a glance with Bartels, who she said told Messina he “should take care of that.”

After that, Minette said, Messina looked at Bartels and started to yell, “It’s gonna be your blood.”

Minette said she felt uncomfortable, tried to push Bartels away and even told a friend of Messina’s “to please get his friend out of here.” But then she heard a “loud crack noise” behind her, turned and saw Bartels lying on his back in the parking lot.

Bartels’ mother, Janet, has sued the hospitals and two doctors who treated her son.

She claims the staff of Silver Cross Hospital, which was in Joliet at the time, miscommunicated with the responders who brought Bartels there, and miscommunicated with staff at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet when he was transferred there, which delayed the treatment of his brain injury.



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