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New Lenox guilty of throwing punch that left man paralyzed, blind

Joseph P. Mess/ phofrom Will County Sheriff's office

Joseph P. Messina / photo from Will County Sheriff's office

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Updated: January 4, 2013 2:20AM

A New Lenox man threw a near-fatal punch that paralyzed Eric Bartels outside a Mokena bar in 2009, a judge decided Thursday in Joliet.

The mothers of both men were in tears after Will County Judge Sarah Jones ruled Joseph Messina, 24, guilty of three counts of aggravated battery after a bench trial.

More than three years after the attack, Bartels’ mother, Janet Bartels, has said he still can’t see or speak. She cares for him in her home.

Eric Bartels, 29, was in a wheelchair in the courtroom with about 30 of his family members for the verdict. He suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell after being punched that night.

Janet Bartels said her son likely realized what had happened in court Thursday, though it was hard to tell what his reaction was to the news.

During the trial, witnesses claimed to have clearly seen Messina punch Bartels and knock him to the ground.

But some of Messina’s friends also testified 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, Mike Glielmi.

Glielmi — who played football alongside Messina at Lincoln-Way High School as star athletes coached by Glielmi’s father, Rob Glielmi — hired a lawyer immediately after the fight and didn’t say a word about the incident to anyone.

He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and wasn’t forced to testify at the trial.

Messina’s father, Joseph Messina, left the courthouse convinced his son was railroaded.

Messina will be sentenced on March 6. He could face two to five years in prison, or could be eligible for probation.

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