Coma-Puncher Raised Arms in 'Victory'
The New Lenox man charged with putting another man into a coma with a punch in 2009 stood over his victim and celebrated his "victory," a witness testified.
Jason Siegert was parked outside the Mokena bar 191 South on a July night in 2009 and said he had a "front row seat" for the punch that put a Joliet man in a coma.
"I saw him punch him in the face, and then I saw the taller guy just fall," Siegert said of the blow that knocked Eric Bartels to the pavement and into a coma.
"He was stiff as a board," Siegert said of Bartels, 29. "He fell from the curb straight back and landed on his head."
Joseph Messina, 23, faces aggravated battery charges for the alleged attack that broke Bartels' skull and damaged his brain. Siegert testified Wednesday during Messina's trial in Will County court.
Siegert said he and another man, Steven Kowalczyk, were parked outside the bar because they were volunteering for Paddy Wagons, a service "where we drive inebriated people home."
In Siegert's account, Messina was "harassing" people smoking outside the bar and "being aggressive toward other patrons."
He also said Bartels "held up his hands" to Messina, as if gesturing, "leave us alone," and that Bartels was trying "to shield the women he was standing with" when Messina punched him in the face.
"We were very close" to the action, Siegert, a union roofer from Chicago Heights, testified. "When the victim fell I heard his head crack the sidewalk."
Messina then straddled Bartels and punched him in the face again, Siegert said. After the second punch, he said, Messina "raised his arms above his head in victory."
"He raised his arms up, fists clenched, and kind of shook them," Siegert said.
The police arrived within minutes and found Messina hiding between the seats of a van, Siegert said. Siegert said he was the one who told officers Messina was the puncher.
Messina is being tried before Judge Sarah Jones. He passed on having his case go before a jury and is leaving his fate up to the judge.
Testimony will continue Thursday.