ABC-TV reports that a woman in Joliet Illinois is being charged with battery and reckless conduct for causing the death of one John “Fatboy” Powell by punching him in the face. So why is this noteworthy? Because Fatboy, who was performing at a party with his band the Krazy Killaz, was challenged that he would not take a punch in the face from a woman for $5. I guess he really needed $5 because he said “Bring it on!.” Up stepped 22 year old Tiffany Startz standing 5 foot 5 and weighing 140 pounds, whereas Powell was. . . well, he was known as Fatboy. Tiffany’s punch unfortunately burst an artery in Powell’s neck and the 25 year old rapper immediately lost consciousness and died shortly thereafter at the hospital. A tragedy? Certainly. A crime? Certainly not.
Consent is an affirmative defense to battery and there was nothing reckless about Tiffany’s conduct. Recklessness is defined in law as failing to perceive a known risk and moving forward in an act despite that known risk. Think of speeding through a crowded intersection or firing a gun into a crowd. This was unforeseeable. None could be expected to predict this outcome. Would she have been arrested if she was giving him birthday punches and the same result occurred? Bad enough she was arrested, but even worse is that State Judge Edward Burmila denied Startz’ motion to dismiss the case.
A judge should not have let this case move forward – its preposterous. Every boxer or MMA fighter could be arrested under the theory of this case. Powell said “Punch me” and Tiffany punched him. The only crime is felony stupidity. A judge’s job is to get rid of these types of cases early on especially when as here, the facts are not in dispute so rally all we have is a question of law: Is acceptance of a $5 bet to be punched in the face consent to physical contact? Of course it is. But judges don’t like to have to face down a victim’s family with straight talk or even worse, the law. They can leave it to the jury to hopefully throw the case out if the jury can follow the law. In the meantime, since there are no appeals until the end of a criminal case,Tiffany will have to pay for her lawyer or trust her luck to the public defender assigned to her; have the incredible stress of having serious charges levied against her; face a public trial; and risk jail time.
Yes, her actions led to the death of a human being, but the criminal justice system is not where this case should be. It shouldn’t be in court at all, but at most, it should be in the civil system.