A suburban Chicago woman was acquitted Wednesday of reckless conduct and battery charges in the party game punching death of an aspiring rapper.
Tiffany Startz, 22, of Joliet, was accused of fatally punching John Powell, of Romeoville, at a garage party in Crest Hill, Ill. in September of 2010. Powell had allegedly accepted $5 in order to allow Startz to punch him in the face, according to the Chicago Tribune.
However, Will County Judge Edward Burmila dismissed the charges against Startz.
"There is no question the defendant acted negligently in striking the victim. Negligence does not equal recklessness," Burmila said, according to Plainfield Patch.
Startz's defense attorneys had claimed that the punch was consensual and that prosecutors had failed to prove their client's guilt, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Theresa Guy, Powell's mother, begged to differ and said, "She got away with murder" after the judge's verdict was announced.
"You've got to love the justice system," Guy continued, according to Patch.
Cell phone video from the tragedy in question was shown during the trial, showing Powell standing in front of Startz with his arms behind his back. "Get this s*** on YouTube!" yelled one onlooker, according to the Sun-Times.
Powell collapsed to the ground after he was punched. Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil reported that a vein in the man's neck had opened up when his head snapped backward, which then caused a brain injury. O'Neil ruled the death a homicide.
Jimmy Mounts, the 27-year-old man who extended the $5 offer to Powell, pleaded guilty last week to lying to police and was sentenced to two years of conditional discharge. Mounts must perform 100 hours of community service as part of the plea bargain he accepted, according to Patch.
Charles Pelkie, a spokesman for the Will County state's attorney, told the Chicago Tribune that their office is "concerned" with the message the judge's verdict sends.
“She threw a punch she shouldn’t have thrown and as a result of that a young man is dead," Pelkie told the Tribune.
WATCH a report from earlier in Startz's trial: