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Coma Beating Trial Postponed Again as Reported Photos Investigated

The aggravated battery case of Joseph Messina, of New Lenox, was postponed till July 30. He's charged with punching Joliet resident Eric Bartels into a coma outside of a Mokena bar in 2009.

The trial of a New Lenox man charged with punching a Joliet man into a coma during a bar fight in July 2009 in Mokena was postponed until July 30.

Joseph Messina, 23, a former football player for Lincoln-Way Central High School, was charged with aggravated battery for the alleged attack. He is accused of punching Eric Bartels, 29, and knocking him to the pavement where he struck his head. 

On Monday at Will County Court, defense attorney David Carlson asked for time to investigate exactly how copies of photos reportedly shot by the Mokena police were processed. "We need to discuss how the photos were transferred to a DVD," he said.

Will County Judge Sarah Jones ruled to reschedule the case.

Previously there had been problems confirming the legitimacy of the photos. In April, Mokena Police Detective Greg Selin testified in court saying he had shot a photo of the defendant's hand that no one could seem to find. He later testified that he couldn't confirm whether or not he had a photo that precisely showed Messina's hands in the fight. 

In court action pertaining to the case last spring, Ken Zelazo, co-defense attorney, said the tape seemed to be missing at least 30 seconds total from two separate sections. At the time, Zelazo asked prosecutors to provide the originals—either original prints or digital images—of what photos they do have.

Previously Carlson said in court that Messina didn't throw the punch that broke Bartels' skull and damaged his brain. 

However, witness Jason Siegert, of Chicago Heights, had testified that he had a "front row seat" to the fight, and he identified Messina as the one who knocked Bartels to the ground.

Shocked. July 24, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Would it be possible for the State Police to take over this investigation for Mokena so they can return to writing traffic tickets? A man is critically injured and our very highly paid police force cannot find the evidence because of the backlog of other serious crimes. Missing evidence and detectives changing stories sure does take away what little confidence the public has in the Mokena Police force.
John Roberts July 24, 2012 at 03:28 PM
The Feds,the state police can all be brought in if it is found that the local police are mishandling the cases,evidence,a judge can rule for an investigation in which when that happens it is in full control of the state police and FBI.
Melissa July 24, 2012 at 09:14 PM
What is the condision of the victim? Did he ever somewhat recover?
Shocked. July 24, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Wouldn't that be something if Eric (the victim) woke from his coma in time to testify.
Mary Carumba July 24, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Messina is the biggest coward on earth, I hope he gets what a coward deserves.
Kathy s July 25, 2012 at 09:42 PM
It was a "bar fight" this happens all the time!! Terribly sorry for the gentleman in the coma, as this was a fight, and normally one person is hurt ! The Messina gentleman defended himself, as did Bartells. Where were the bouncers ? Isn't that a bouncers position at a bar, so there are no "fights" or to stop them before they get out of control. Both of these men knew what could possibly happen. Hopefully, this fighting at bars will end. Most likely it won't !
anon July 27, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Kathy - Unfortunately, it was one punch and Eric went down so he had no idea that could possibly happen. Joe did not defend himself, he threw a punch, the first and last punch.
Wilbur Fletchstein July 27, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Fights do happen outside bars all-the-time, but that doesn't make participants any less civilly or criminally responsible for what their fists do. What is supposed to happen after something tragic, yet avoidable, like this is: Both parties tell a judge and possibly jury their sides of the stories, as do witnesses. Eric is in a coma, so his side of the story has to be told by the evidence presented and witness accounts. This is where we seem to have a problem: evidence is missing, stories are changing, and videotape oddities are occurring.

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