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Court hears arguments on $559M lottery winner's plea to remain anonymous

Feb 14, 2018, 9:55 am

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The mystery woman in possession of the winning $560 million Powerball ticket purchased last month in Merrimack, New Hampshire, is highly stressed and is preparing to have security guards in place should her name be revealed, according to her lawyers.

"She doesn't want to be a celebrity," said William Shaheen of Shaheen and Gordon law firm. Shaheen said his client, who has filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire Lottery Commission seeking to keep her identity a secret even though she signed the back of the winning ticket, is entitled to her money and has already created The Good Karma Family Trust of 2018.

The problem, however, is that she signed the back of the ticket, which is now a public document, argues Assistant Attorney General John Conforti.

"When you win this kind of money, you realize you have responsibilities. A lot of people think it is just glitter -- there is a lot of stress involved," said Shaheen.

He said the winner is prepared if the judge does not rule in her favor and orders that the back of the ticket with her signature becomes public. According to Shaheen, security guards are queued and ready to begin duty if she loses her court case.

"You have to understand, this ticket is the most valuable piece of paper on the planet Earth," said Charles McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.

McIntyre said the commission does want to work with the winner and is prepared to allow the funds to be assigned to a trust and transferred. It will be up to the court to decide whether the ticket with the winner's signature becomes public under several Right-to-Know requests already received by the commission.

"She has unlimited choices in life now," McIntyre said of the woman, adding the winner must first learn how to say 'No.'

He also suggested that if Judge Charles Temple dismisses the lawsuit as requested by the commission and the woman's name does become public that she hold a press conference to answer questions from the media.

He stressed that the $560 million prize is the public's money that has been collected from 45 other jurisdictions around the nation.

"It is our biggest win ever," he said of New Hampshire, adding that while he is not downplaying the woman's desire for privacy, she now has no financial worries — ever.

Attorneys for both sides argued the merits of the case on Tuesday at Hillsborough County Superior Court; the winner was not present in the courtroom.

"We come to the court today in a Catch 22, not in our own making," said attorney Steven Gordon, representing the winner. He said his client followed the commission's instructions and signed her name and hometown on the ticket, essentially losing her right to anonymity, which could have been avoided if she had first assigned it to a trust.

Now, the woman known in court records as Jane Doe wants to cash in her ticket, he said, adding the ticket and the prize sits in limbo pending a court ruling on whether she can keep her identity private.

Gordon maintains that if her name is revealed, she could be subject to harassment, annoyance and possibly threats or violence.

"The lottery thrives on transparency," argued Conforti. He said taxpayers need to know that the commission is running the games in an appropriate manner with integrity and fairness.

The ticket is a public document, and the commission believes that it is best to be transparent with the lottery process so that the public can see that winners are not connected to the lottery or the state, or that winners are not in clusters or related, according to Conforti.

"We have a substantial public interest in disclosure of those public documents," he said, adding Doe is asking for a substantial extension of privacy protection under the state's Right-to-Know law.

(See NH Lottery Commission wants Powerball winner's lawsuit dismissed, citing Right-to-Know Law, Lottery Post, Feb. 13, 2018.)

Still, Gordon argued that the commission has nothing to do with the Powerball game, explaining that it is handled by the Multi-State Lottery Association, and that disclosure of her identity will reveal nothing about the commission's activities.

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