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Joliet Woman Acquitted Of Charges In Deadly Party Game

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Tiffany Startz

Tiffany Startz has been acquitted of charges that she caused a man’s death when she punched him as part of a game at a party in Crest Hill. (Credit: Crest Hill police)

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Updated 10/12/11 – 8:01 p.m.

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — A Joliet woman has been acquitted of charges that she was responsible for a man’s death when she punched him as part of a party game last year.

Tiffany Startz, 22, went on trial last week for a punch she threw at a Crest Hill garage party that killed John Powell of Romeoville in September 2010. Powell, a rapper and daredevil who performed at the party, took a bet from Jimmy Mounts, 28, also of Romeoville, who promised $5 to anyone willing to take a hit from Startz.

After prosecutors wrapped up their case last week, Startz’s attorneys asked Will County Judge Edward Burmila to grant them a directed verdict, arguing in essence the prosecution did not prove her guilt. Burmila granted their request Wednesday morning.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Wednesday’s verdict left the victim’s mom enraged.

“I just want to know how she got away with this. They bragged about doing this at parties before,” Theresa Guy cried after the ruling.

Guy lashed out at the justice system for what she says is a miscarriage of justice in her son’s death.

“That’s all we can say from leaving that courtroom. That’s all they did is fail him,” said Guy through tears.

Guy was inconsolable after a judge threw out battery and reckless conduct charges against 22 year old Tiffany Startz, who punched Powell during the party game.

No one at the Crest Hill home where the party took place would talk on Wednesday, but prosecutors were quick to weigh in on the ruling.

“The defendant threw a punch that she shouldn’t have thrown and as a result of that a young man has died. There should be consequences. In this case, there are none,” said Chuck Pelkie a spokesman for the Will County State’s Attorney’s office.

Powell died when he willingly took the punch as part of a $5 bet during a party.

“Whether he agreed to take the hit is irrelevant,” said Pelkie.

After taking the punch to the left side of his jaw, Powell actually collected his winnings, police said. But a vein ruptured in his neck and he collapsed and died about a minute later. The Will County coroner eventually determined that the death was a homicide.

But Burmila ruled that the charges were without merit and dismissed them.

Tiffany Startz ducked into a waiting van without saying a word after the verdict, but her father, Tim Startz, spoke on her behalf, saying, “there are no winners in this case.”

But Guy said there are losers. She lost her only son and now she says he’s lost his only chance at justice.

“This is ridiculous. This is the worst nightmare come true twice,” said Guy.

Prosecutors said there are no plans to appeal Burmila’s ruling.

Startz’s father said his daughter is remorseful and will be dealing with what happened for the rest of her life.

Powell’s mom said she intends to fight for a change in the law so that others charged with similar crimes will face prison time.

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