Tiffany Startz, 22, is facing has been charged in a bizarre case after she punched a rapper on a dare last September in Joliet, Illinois — killing John “Fatboy” Powell. It is a modern version of the case of Harry Houdini who reportedly died after a college student punched him repeatedly in the stomach to test his claim of being able to withstand blows. As discussed below, the student was never charged. Startz, however, is facing reckless conduct and battery charges stemming from the incident at a garage party.
Powell, 25, had agreed to be hit in the face for $5. After the blow, Powell walked away but soon collapsed from a burst artery in his neck. What further complicates this case is the face that a man Jimmy Mounts was offering partygoers to take a punch from a female for $5 — facilitating the crime charge.
It is generally illegal to organize prize fights and pay for acts that would be criminal acts. Generally, in civil liability cases, the courts impose the doctrine of volenti non fit injuria (the volunteer suffers no wrong). There is also the principle of ex turpi causa non oritur actio (no action shall arise out of an improper or immoral cause). However, the common law does not recognize consent to prohibited or criminal acts. This was the holding of the famous case of Hudson v. Craft, 33 Cal.2d 654 (1949), a prizefighting case where the court refused to recognize the consent of the injured fighter because prizefighting is a crime.
Nevertheless, Startz’ lawyer Ira Goldstein has asked the court to dismiss the charges, arguing “people get paid to get hit.” Will County Judge Edward Burmila refused to dismiss the charges.
Here Startz died from a brain haemorrhage caused by blunt force trauma. Both sides offered sharply different accounts, with some of Startz supporters insisting that Powell tripped or hit his head while performing. Powell was a rapper and recording artist with the group Krazy Killas. An autopsy found that “a vein in Powell’s neck opened up when his head snapped back.”
Powell is described as 5-foot-8 and weighing 140 pounds while Startz is described as 5-foot-5 and weighing 142-pounds.
There is also question of the liability of Mounts, 27, who offered guests cash to take a punch from Startz. He has also been charged with reckless conduct. Notably, Powell collected his money from Mounts. If Mounts was just not a paid organizer (he is described in some articles as a “partygoer,” it becomes a simple dare gone bad.
The case falls into an uncomfortable gray area. We watch people routinely hit each other for pay from football to boxing to wrestling to cage fights. This was a grossly stupid act by Mounts, Powell, and Startz. However, should it be criminal? The tort system allows for liability, as noted above, against both Mounts and Startz.
This appears to the criminal case that never emerged from the Houdini death. Witnesses stated that Houdini was actually relaxing on a couch when McGill University student, J. Gordon Whitehead, entered and asked him if it were true that he could take any blow above the waist. When Houdini answered in the affirmative, Whitehead reportedly hit him repeatedly before Houdini could prepare himself. He died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix. He had been reportedly suffering from appendicitis for several days before the blows from Whitehead. No charges were brought and his family was able to convince the insurance company that, since this was an injury in the dressing room at Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan, he was entitled to double indemnity.
Source: Daily Mail