The bench trial of a New Lenox man charged with punching a Joliet man into a coma outside a Mokena bar took a back seat to two of the most notorious and highly publicized murder cases in Will County's history.
But the trials of wife-murderer Drew Peterson and quadruple-killer Christopher Vaughn are over now, and the case of Joseph Messina is back on.
Messina, 24, allegedly knocked 29-year-old Eric Bartels of Joliet to the ground with a single punch outside the Mokena bar 191 South in July 2009. Bartels has been in a coma since.
After Bartels fell, a witness testified previously, Messina straddled him, punched his face again, then "raised his arms above his head in victory."
The police arrived quickly and found Messina hiding between the seats of a van, witnesses said.
But defense attorney Carlson insists Messina didn't throw the punch that broke Bartels' skull and damaged his brain. In fact, Carlson said, Messina didn't punch anyone at all. The attorney said it was actually one of Messina's close friends who struck Bartels.
One of the two assistant state's attorneys prosecuting Messina, Chris Koch, was on the Peterson case. The other, Michael Fitzgerald, was on the Vaughn trial.
Messina's trial was postponed until the conclusion of the two lengthy murder prosecutions.
During a Tuesday hearing in front of Judge Sarah Jones, Fitzgerald said he and Koch are coming to the end of their list of witnesses. He said they still plan to call a Mokena police detective, a Mokena police officer and three doctors to the stand before resting their case.
Jones set a Nov. 14 date for Messina's trial to resume.