The judge in the Mokena coma punch case cleared the way for Thursday's bombshell witness to keep testifying without fear of prosecution on perjury or obstructing justice charges.
The witness, Steve Raymond of Frankfort, then returned to the witness stand to recall how he told the police "a lot of lies," including how he never saw who threw the fateful punch that put a Joliet man in a coma in July 2009.
On Thursday and Friday Raymond changed his story and said it was his friend Mike Glielmi who punched 29-year-old Eric Bartels in the face outside the Mokena bar 191 South.
Another of Raymond's friends, Joseph Messina, 24, of New Lenox, was charged with attacking Bartels and spent nearly two months in jail before bonding out. Yet Raymond kept quiet about what he says really happened, apparently telling no one else about Glielmi's guilt except for Messina's father, who also seemingly stayed silent.
A choked up Raymond, who says he considers Messina a "brother," explained that on July 1, 2011, he had a change of heart about snitching on Glielmi. That was the day his sister suffered severe brain injuries in a motorcycle accident.
"Right there, I felt Eric Bartels' pain," Raymond said, looking out at Bartels' family and friends in the gallery.
He tearfully told how he understood their "anger, and how you wanted to know the truth."
"I'm telling you guys the truth," he said. "I am."
Despite the awareness that accompanied his sister's motorcycle accident, Raymond still did not come forward with his new version of events for another year or so.
While Raymond insisted his was telling the truth, Glielmi wasn't telling anybody anything. He showed up in court with Joliet attorney Steven Haney, who said Glielmi would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify since doing so would open him up to a criminal prosecution. Judge Sarah Jones then let Glielmi, who at the time of the attack lived in Manhattan but has since moved to St. Louis, go.
On the night of the attack, Raymond, Glielmi, two other young men and a young woman had taken Messina to 191 South to celebrate his birthday. A scuffle broke out as they were leaving the bar and Raymond recalled watching as Glielmi "wound up and hit (Bartels) in the face."
"The sound of his head hitting that concrete, hitting the ground, is something I'll never forget," Raymond said. "It haunts me to this day."
The Mokena police took Messina into custody even thought Raymond claims he told them they had the wrong guy. Raymond then drove their four other friends to the Mokena Police Department and from there headed to the the house where Messina lived with his parents.
While Glielmi was riding in the van Raymond was driving, Raymond said, Glielmi spoke of his guilt.
"Mike Glielmi tried saying that he made a mistake, that it should be him in the handcuffs, not Joe Messina," Raymond said. "He kept saying, 'I did it, I did it, I did it. Joe did not do it.'"
When they got to the Messina house, Raymond said, he left Glielmi outside in the van for fear of what Messina's father might do to him.
Another of the young men celebrating Messina's birthday that night, Sean Plarski, 24, told how Glielmi was "freaking out" while riding in the van.
"He was rambling on, freaking out in the back," Plarski said.
While bieng questioned by Assistant State's Attorney Michael Fitzgerald, it was revealed that during a sworn deposition Plarski said Glielmi never mentioned anything about swinging his fist or punching anyone. On the witness stand Friday, Plarski said that was true.
"I never heard him say that he struck Eric Bartels, no," Plarski said. He did say he heard Glielmi tell them, "I can't believe this happened. What did I do? I can't let Joe take the fall for this."
Plarski also noted that when Glielmi said these things from the back of the van that "it was very loud in there."
Messina attorney Dave Carlson said he may call two more witnesses when the trial resumes Monday. Prosecutors have subpoenaed Raymond's ex-girlfriend Lauren Grenda, to testify for them. Grenda was out with the men at 191 South for Messina's birthday.