Cook County jurors found Mitchell Barnes not guilty of attempted murder Friday. But the 11-woman, 1-man jury convicted the former Barrington-area man of home invasion and robbery, making the 22-year-old eligible for a prison term of up to 30 years when he is sentenced.
William Mallette suffered a fractured spine, cracked ribs, fractured thyroid cartilage and a partly collapsed lung during the attack, which took place around 1 a.m. Aug. 13, 2011, in his room at the Homewood Studio Suites in Schaumburg. Mallette expressed satisfaction with the verdict and thanked prosecutors and victim advocates for their hard work.
"It was hard to sit there and take all that made up stuff," said Mallette, whom defense attorneys painted as an aggressor who tried to force Barnes into performing a sexual act.
He expects to undergo additional medical procedures and says he still deals with the psychological trauma.
"I'm a 46-year-old man who still thinks there's a boogeyman. I don't take the garbage out at night," said Mallette, whose civil suit against Barnes and the hotel is pending. "That doesn't go away with a verdict."
Defense attorney Nenye Uche said he respected the jury's verdict but disagreed with it.
"We're confident of our chances with regard to the other charges in appellate court," said Uche.
Prosecutors say Barnes, who also lived at the Homestead Suites, came up with the plan to rob Mallette, who lived across the hall from Barnes' friend. Prosecutors say he enlisted help from friends, including co-defendant Joseph Stein, 23, who admitted taking Mallette's money clip with cash and credit cards.
As partners in crime, both men faced the same charges, explained Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Shilpa Patel, adding "The law does not allow partners in crime to wash their hands of the other's conduct."
Stein testified the idea for the robbery was Barnes'. He testified Barnes knocked on the door, entered and began beating Mallette. Stein, who agreed to plead guilty to robbery and testify against his friend in exchange for a six-year prison sentence, with a boot camp recommendation.
Confronted by prosecutors with a statement implicating himself, Barnes testified detectives told him he could go home if he signed the statement. The Barrington High School graduate and former Harper College student insisted he made no admissions about robbing or attacking Mallette. He claimed he struck Mallette in self-defense after Mallette tried to sexually assault him.
"I was scared. I was fighting for my life," Barnes said. "I felt I was going to get raped."
Uche questioned Mallette's credibility, pointing out the contradictory versions of the events he gave to police officers and emergency personnel.
"The truth is usually sprinkled at the start of any lie. ... As the lie progresses ... that's when the story starts changing," he said. "Something deeper is going on. My client is not a stranger to Mr. Mallette."
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Susanne Groebner rejected defense claims, saying the nature and severity of Mallette's injuries, the traces of his blood on Barnes' shoes, and eyewitness testimony all point to Barnes.
She asked why he didn't report Mallette's attack to police and challenged his self-defense claim.
"Stomping and choking is not self-defense. They're acts of aggression," she said. "He didn't go there with the intent to have sex with William Mallette, he went there with the intent to rob him. ... Each and every one of those injuries shows an intent to kill."