A US woman charged with landing a party-game punch that killed a man last year went on trial Monday with attorneys for both sides agreeing that Tiffany Startz, 22, threw a punch as part of a $5 bet but disputing whether it was a crime.
John Powell, 25, had finished a set with his rap duo Krazy Killaz in the basement of a home in Crest Hill, Illinois, and was in the garage talking with friends when another partygoer, Jimmy Mounts, offered $5 to anyone who would take a punch from Startz, according to testimony at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.
The September 25, 2010, gathering was to celebrate the birthday of a young woman who killed herself earlier that month. There was music, alcohol, even a cake.
"Everybody was having a good time," testified Kristin Lowdermilk, 19.
Powell took the bet. He stood, put his arms behind his back and leaned forward, turning his face to the right as Startz threw a punch, his friend Alison Tomczak, 21, of Frankfort testified Monday.
A mobile phone recording shows Powell stagger back several steps after being hit as some of the roughly 20 spectators smile.
Powell collected his winnings, complimented Startz on her punching ability and collapsed.
"I saw his eyes roll back in the back of his head and I threw up," Tomczak testified, her voice breaking.
Authorities said Powell died minutes later from an artery that burst in his neck.
Startz, who is charged with reckless conduct and battery, wasn't there by the time police arrived, Tomczak testified.
While Tomczak testified that Startz hit Powell with "full force," Lowdermilk gave a somewhat different account.
"To me, it didn't look like she hit him that hard," she testified.
Defence attorney Ira Goldstein said in his opening statement that because the punch was consensual and Startz is not a trained fighter, no laws were broken.
"This is a case that is being brought, not because of the act that was committed, but because of the result of that act," he said.
Startz's co-defendant Mounts, 27, faced the same felony charges as her but on Monday pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempting to obstruct justice. He was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
Powell's mother, Theresa Guy, said she had "mixed feelings" about Mounts' plea deal, but hoped it would strengthen the case against Startz.
"(My son) didn't take the bet to die; that isn't what he asked for," she said.