On the day a New Lenox man was to be sentenced for punching another man into a coma outside a Mokena bar, the judge announced she received an email from the prosecutor's office.
Even though Will County Judge Sarah Jones didn't read the email, lawyers for convicted coma-puncher Joseph Messina say that just the fact she got it means she should start a whole new trial and leave it to another judge to decide the case.
Messina, 24, was found guilty in January of punching 29-year-old Eric Bartels, of Joliet, outside the Mokena bar 191 South in July 2009. The attack left Bartels in a coma.
Messina was set to be sentenced March 6 but his attorneys, Dave Carlson and Ken Zelazo, instead argued for a new trial based on a lack of evidence, among other things. Before that hearing started, Judge Jones revealed that she received an email from the Will County State's Attorney's Office.
The email included a statement from Will County State's Attorney that was to be disseminated to the media. The statement said:
"'This was a senseless and unprovoked act of aggression on the part of Joseph Messina that literally destroyed Eric Bartels' life. The defendant's conduct—striking the victim while he lay helpless on the ground and then cheering victoriously over him—reflects the culture of violence woven into every aspect of our entertainment and media,' said State's Attorney James Glasgow. 'Fortunately, Judge Jones found him guilty after weighing the totality of the evidence as well as the credibility of the defense witnesses. She wisely saw through the fraudulent statements made by a defense witness, who changed his story in order to blame someone else three years after the crime.'"
Zelazo presented the motion for a new trial in court Thursday. Messina's attorneys will make their case before Judge Jones April 4.
State's attorney spokesman Charles B. Pelkie said Messina's latest bid for a new trial is without merit.
"There's absolutely no legal basis for that motion," Pelkie said.
"Carlson knows this," he said. "This is strictly politiics on his part. No other attorney would file such a motion."