The Death of Fatboy: Criminal Charges Brought In Dare Gone Bad

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

Jonathan Turley

10 thoughts on “The Death of Fatboy: Criminal Charges Brought In Dare Gone Bad”

  1. If all parties were consenting then it is open and shut. If the rapper were famous this probably would have been on some reality TV show or he would of been guest-starring on Jackass where getting punched in the face or worse is every other scene. If one of them died or this guy died on the show there would be absad story about a rapper who died before his time. A stupid way to go out but as far as a prosecution of involved parties. . . give me a break. This is just another case of some govt officials butting in when they should be focussing on real crimes. The person who hit the rapper is gonna have to live with that for the rest of their lives. A dare or prank or whatever gone wrong. If anything, they should be paying for them all to get emotional help n talk to grief counselors cause I’m sure they were all friends.

  2. Nature seems to have an odd sense of humor when it comes to weeding out the feeble.

    With science’s rapid learning curve of the human genome, we may wake up to discover someday they’ve actually identified a “dare” trigger.

  3. “People punch each other “for fun” all the time,”

    I think you’re hanging out with a different group of people than I am.

  4. Frank
    1, May 31, 2011 at 11:43 am
    …This is what passes for entertainment at the dawn of the new Millennium.
    I suspect it’s what passed for entertainment at the dawn of the last millennium, and the one before that, and the one before that…

    Assuming that this set up was fairly spontaneous (just some idiots screwing around at a party/gig) then I’d have a hard time as a juror convicting anyone of any sort of crime for this stupid gag gone bad. People punch each other “for fun” all the time, and it’s clearly incredibly rare for someone to die as a result.

    Also assuming that Ms. Startz didn’t have any meaningful martial arts or similar training, I really can’t blame her for the improbable, and thus difficult to forsee, result of one un-trained punch.

    None of what I’m saying is meant to say that this situation was anything other than stupid and tragic. Just because a “girl” punching a willing guy in the face is very, very unlikely to kill him, doesn’t mean that it’s anything other than a very bad idea. It’s just not an unambiguously criminal act.

    Caveat, um, punchee.

  5. What can you expect? These kids were raised watching shows where it is great fun to set fire to each other, shoot them great distances in port-a-potties, whack them with pipes, throw them in thorn bushes and on and on and on. This is what passes for entertainment at the dawn of the new Millennium.

    They never show anyone really getting hurt & certainly not killed. At this point the best public service Johnny Knoxville could perform would be to get killed in one of his stupid stunts.

    I’m really not a fan of blaming pop culture for all of societies ills, it often only reflects them not directs them. But this particular brand of idiocy has spawned so many wannabes that it is hard not to give them a large amount of the credit.

  6. Parents and teachers should let kids know from early childhood that they don’t have to take every dare that’s offered. I’ve seen too many kids who were locked up after taking dares. This is the first instance I’ve seen of someone dying from taking a dare; I hope it will be the last, but I’m not sure of that.

    I once told a kid, imprisoned for stealing a police car on a dare, “Laugh in his face, and say, ‘Do you think I’m that stupid?'” It had never occurred to him that he could refuse a dare without compromising his status in the group.

    We need to give kids the tools they need to resist peer pressure.

  7. Consent……did they have the ability to consent… dumb…but too bad…

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