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New Lenox man gets probation for attack that paralyzed victim

Joseph P. Messina

Joseph P. Messina

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Updated: August 14, 2013 1:42AM

A New Lenox man who threw a punch that paralyzed a Mokena man four years ago was sentenced to 30 months of probation Tuesday.

Will County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Jones said she did not believe that Joseph Messina, 25, deserved prison time for attacking Eric Bartels outside a Mokena bar in July 2009.

“A prison sentence cannot take away the pain of a family who has had a loss,” said Jones, who found Messina guilty of three counts of aggravated battery after a bench trial in January.

Prosecutors said Messina was celebrating his 21st birthday when he and Bartels, now 30, got into a dispute. Messina punched Bartels, knocking him to the pavement. Then he straddled Bartels on the ground, hit him a second time and raised his arms in victory, according to prosecutors.

Bartels is a quadriplegic who can’t see or speak as a result of the injury in the attack by Messina.

As part of Messina’s sentencing hearing on 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.

“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 and 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 with 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 is proposing a change to the aggravated battery law that would 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.

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