A bombshell witness took the stand in the case against New Lenox man Joseph Messina and accused one of their pals of throwing the fateful punch that put a Joliet man into a coma.
Steve Raymond, of Frankfort, blamed mutual friend Michael Glielmi of punching Eric Bartels into a coma in July 2009.
"This is what people don't know," Raymond said. "I saw Mike Glielmi punch Eric Bartels."
For his part, the 24-year-old Glielmi showed up in court with Joliet attorney Steven Haney, who said his client would plead the Fifth Amendment if called to testify.
"The advice is he's going to invoke his right to remain silent," Haney told Judge Sarah Jones.
Haney told the judge it was his "understanding" that Glielmi could be charged if he answers questions on the witness stand. Prosecutors told Jones they have not offered Glielmi immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Messina, Glielmi, Raymond, two other men and a young woman were out together celebrating Messina's 21st birthday in July 2009 when a fight broke out in front of the Mokena bar 191 South.
During the fight, Messina allegedly punched Bartels, 29, knocking him to the ground. After Bartels fell, a witness testified previously, Messina straddled him, ."
Bartels, a Joliet resident, suffered a fracture skull and brain damage. He remains in a coma.
But Messina's attorneys, along with Raymond, said that particular witness, among others, has the wrong guy. They insist it was actually Glielmi who punched Bartels after someone pushed Messina.
But when Raymond was questioned by the Mokena police in the wake of the fight he told detectives he never saw who threw the punch that floored Bartels. He testified that he lied to the police because he expected Glielmi to come clean on his own.
"I thought Glielmi was going to do the right thing," said Raymond, who choked up on the witness stand.
Glielmi was living in Manhattan at the time of the fight. Mokena police Sgt. Jason Louthan said he went to Glielmi's house while investigating the case but never spoke with Glielmi.
Glielmi has since moved to St. Louis.
Assistant State's Attorney Michael Fitzgerald told Judge Jones he wanted her to warn Raymond that he could be charged with perjury or obstruction of justice. Fitzgerald later conceded that Raymond could not be charged with perjury.
Jones gave Messina's lawyers until 1 p.m. Friday to put in writing what they expect Raymond to say from the witness stand before she decides whether he could face criminal charges for allegedly lying to the police in 2009.
One of Messina's lawyers, Dave Carlson, pointed out that even if Raymond's conduct did rise to the level of obstructing justice, the three-year statute of limitations has already lapsed.
Judge Jones also wants lawyers to justify allowing, or not allowing, Glielmi to hide behind the Fifth Amendment.
Carlson suggested that granting Glielmi immunity from prosecution might not be such a bad idea after all.
"Quite frankly, your honor, we would love to have him testify because that would answer all the questions," he told Jones.
The judge called the notion "pipe dreams" and told Carlson, "That's not going to happen."