Judge to decide if New Hampshire Powerball-winning woman can remain anonymous
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NASHUA, N.H.) — One woman wants New Hampshire to give her a $560 million mulligan.
The lawyers for the winner of last month’s massive Powerball jackpot faced a judge Tuesday, making the case she is just a humble, working New Hampshire woman who didn’t realize that when she endorsed her winning ticket, by state law she forfeited her rights to remain anonymous.
Through her attorneys, the winner is hoping to compel a judge at the Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua to let her “white out” her signature on the ticket and write over it her newly minted trust: Good Karma Family Trust.
The unidentified woman’s attorneys were in court pressing their case after filing an injunction in court to “maintain her privacy.”
“The ticket and the prize sits in limbo pending this court’s ruling,” her attorney Steven Gordon said in court on Tuesday.
After the hearing, her other attorney, William Shaheen, explained that the woman has already suffered an “unreal” amount of stress with people’s hands out, even despite her managing to remain an unknown since winning the historic Jan. 6 drawing.
“A lot of people thinks it’s just glitter,” Sheehan said. “There’s a lot of stress involved. A lot of people ask for things.”
The attorney also said that the frustration was evident when the winner learned she could have waited to sign the ticket and collect the cash through a trust.
“She was very upset,” Sheehan said. “She didn’t know that she lost her right of anonymity by signing the ticket.”
This was a far cry from the “awe” and “disbelief” she experienced learning she had won, according to the injunction court document.
Sheehan suggested that the lottery should have better language on the back to warn winners about their options.
“The back of the ticket could have said that, ‘You sign the ticket, you lose your anonymity.’ That’s a phrase, but it’s not there,” he said.
But Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery, doesn’t believe outside of their urging winners claiming lottery prizes to “seek legal advice” and touting the lottery’s website which reads: “You may wish to seek legal or financial advice, for we do not offer such services.”
“It’s on our website and the back of the ticket references our website. And we think it’s a fair process,” he said outside court.
Deputy Attorney General of New Hampshire John Conforti also drew a hard line in the legal sand.
“We feel that our obligation under the law is to disclose this information,” he said. “We don’t feel we can choose when we follow the law and when we don’t.”
Under New Hampshire law, the winning lottery player’s name, town and prize amount are public information and the state lottery commission in a petition, confirmed it would be compelled to out the winner’s identity if a “Right to Know” request was filed.
The winner, according to the complaint, printed her name, address, city and phone number, and signed the back of the ticket.
It was only when she “secured the ticket in a safe place” that she reached out to an attorney that she learned she “could have maintained her privacy” by signing the ticket with a trustee instead of her own name and “that by signing the ticket her privacy was forever lost.”
To reverse what the injunction refers to as “a huge mistake” and to stop bleeding thousands of dollars in interest every day she doesn’t come forward to collect, the winner wants a second chance.
“Time is of the essence,” the complaint states.
“In the alternative,” the complaint states, the winner “requests she be allowed in the presence of the Commission — to white out her name, address, phone and signature and replace the information with that of the trust.”
But McIntyre remains stern that there is no way to go back in time.
“I don’t have discretion,” McIntyre explained. “This is a public document. Her name is on the back of it. I cannot, by law, alter it.”
The decision now rests with the judge.
And perhaps to help coax him to let her get a do-over, the winner has stated her intent to give much of her winnings to charity, but doesn’t wish to do so at the cost of losing her autonomy.
“She wishes to remain in New Hampshire and give back to the State and community that has given so much to her. … She wishes to be a silent witness to these good works, far from the glare and misfortune that has often fallen upon other lottery ‘winners.'”
Indeed, the complaint documents a series of winners who have been “victims of violence, threats, harassments, scams and constant unwanted solicitation.”
“There are countless stories of the other winners who have suffered significantly after receiving their money, many of which could have been avoided if the winners’ identities had not been published,” the complaint states.
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