A savage beating during an attempted robbery or a sexual encounter gone wrong? Prosecutors and defense attorneys offered conflicting scenarios Wednesday as the trial of Mitchell Barnes began in Rolling Meadows.
Barnes, a former Barrington Hills resident, is charged with attempted murder, home invasion and robbery in an attack police say took place three years ago at the Homestead Studio Suites in Schaumburg. Prosecutors say Barnes orchestrated the attack on William Mallette, 46, who suffered spine and rib fractures, fractured thyroid cartilage and a partly collapsed lung in the beating.
"Mitchell Barnes told them how it was going to go down," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Susanne Groebner. "This was his plan, and he was going to execute it."
Defense attorney Nenye Uche challenged that scenario, insisting his client defended himself against a sexual assault by the "so-called victim."
He said Barnes went to Mallette's room early on Aug. 13, 2011, to perform a sex act in exchange for money. Barnes and Mallette argued, Uche said. When Barnes tried to leave, Mallette grabbed him, called him a racial slur and told him to "get on the bed," said Uche, who said his client "was fighting for his life."
Mallette denied any sexual encounter. He testified he was awakened by a knock on his door accompanied by someone shouting that the hotel was on fire. Opening the door, Mallette said he "was met by a punch in the head" from a man who beat, kicked and choked him. The man was accompanied by another man, said Mallette, who claimed he passed out, awoke several hours later and called 911.
Uche confronted Mallette about different versions of the story he said Mallette gave authorities, including one where three black men entered the room and another where he said it was two black men and a Hispanic man. Mallette denied those claims. He also denied offering Barnes money for sex.
"None of this is true," Mallette said in response to Uche's questions. "I was fighting for my life."
Schaumburg police officer Jim Hackett testified he questioned Mallette's timeline, saying, "My problem was at one time he said it (the attack) was about 4:20 a.m. Then he changed his story to say it was 1:30 a.m. to 1:50 a.m."
Testimony concluded with co-defendant Joseph Stein, 23, who agreed to plead guilty to robbery and testify against Barnes. In exchange, Stein will be sentenced to six years in prison, with a boot camp recommendation.
Stein testified he was hanging out at the hotel with friends, drinking and smoking pot early that evening. He said he and two friends were outside the hotel smoking cigarettes when Mallette began talking to them and invited them to his room to use cocaine. The three declined and returned to their room -- which was across the hall from Mallette's -- where Barnes joined them sometime later, Stein said. After they told him what happened outside, Stein said, "Mitch started to make a plan" to knock on Mallette's door, tackle him and take his money clip.
Testimony continues today.