Trial begins in fatal party punch case

Tribune reporter

A bench trial began this morning for a Joliet woman charged with fatally striking a man who accepted a $5 party bet to take a punch from her.

Tiffany Startz, 22, is charged with reckless conduct and battery, accused of punching John Powell, 25, in the face at a Crest Hill party last fall. The house party was held to celebrate the life of a woman who had committed suicide.

Powell had performed at the party as part of a rap duo when another partygoer, Jimmy Mounts, offered $5 to anyone who would let Startz punch them.

Mounts, who had faced the same felony charges as Startz, pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor count of attempting to obstruct justice and was sentenced to two years of probation.

One witness testified today at Startz's trial that it didn't appear Startz hit Powell very hard. Another testified that Powell put his arms behind his back and leaned forward to take the punch, then collapsed about a minute later.

A cellphone video recording shows Powell stagger back several steps after being hit as some of the roughly 20 spectators smile. Authorities said Powell died minutes later from an artery that burst in his neck. 

The trial is expected to continue Tuesday.

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