Joseph Messina, the 25-year-old Illinois man who was found guilty in January of aggravated battery for throwing punches that left his victim in a coma for months, was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 months of probation.
Messina was convicted of attacking Eric Bartels, 31, outside a restaurant and bar in Mokena in July 2009. Witnesses testified that Messina punched Bartels twice after a comment was made about a bloodstain on Messina’s shirt. Prosecutors argued that the attack was unprovoked. Bartels, a father of a 3-year-old son, is now paralyzed, cannot see or speak, and needs constant care.
“I’m very disappointed with the sentence, and we believe there was sufficient evidence in the record to justify a prison sentence,” said Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. “The injuries to Eric Bartels are a hair’s breadth from murder.”
“This isn’t a broken nose,” he continued. “The seriousness of the offense can be taken into account in determining the appropriate punishment.” Glasgow has vowed to amend the aggravated battery statute in Illinois to make a prison term mandatory should the perpetrator “cause a severe and permanent disability.”
In addition to the 30 months of probation, Messina was ordered to pay $630 per month to Bartels’ mother, Jan, to help pay for the cost of his medical care, and must complete 250 community service hours. Will County Judge Sarah Jones ordered the $20,000 bond put up by Messina’s family to be turned over to Jan Bartels as well.
Judge Jones maintained that her decision was based on the lack of evidence provided by the prosecution that would overcome the presumption of probation.
“This is a legal decision, not an emotional decision,” said Jones repeatedly during the hearing. “Sentencing is the most difficult thing I will do on this job.”
“In a trial one side wins, but everybody loses,” Jones added.