Lotto winner remains ‘Jane Doe’
Merrimack woman will now start looking to future
MERRIMACK – The $550 million Powerball winner gets to remain anonymous thanks to a judge’s ruling, though her hometown will be disclosed as public record.
“We’re thrilled with the ruling,” said William Shaheen, one of the woman’s attorneys.
Judge Charles Temple ordered that Jane Doe can remain anonymous after collecting more than $350 million, the lump sum amount of her Powerball jackpot. However, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission is free to disclose the woman’s hometown, though not her street address or phone number. Shaheen said the hometown disclosure makes official something of an open secret, that the woman lives in town.
“We always suspected everyone knew that anyway,” Shaheen said.
The woman won the jackpot after buying a ticket at Reeds Ferry Market ahead of the Jan. 6 drawing. The woman signed her ticket after it came back as the winning numbers, meaning that her identity would become public record under New Hampshire law once she picked up her winnings.
The woman sued in court to have the right to pick up the money anonymously, through a trust. New Hampshire law allows lottery winners to use trusts to remain anonymous, but not after signing the ticket. The lottery commission fought the woman over the law.
Temple worte in his ruling he wanted to balance the public’s right to know against the woman’s right to privacy. Jane Doe has stated through her attorneys that she is afraid of being targeted or harassed if her identity becomes known.
Temple acknowledged that lottery winners have reported being contacted by people looking for money, and there are numerous reports of winners being criminally harassed.
“(T)he record clearly shows that lottery winners, in general, are subject to repeated solicitation, harassment and even violence,” Temple wrote.
There is a public interest in disclosing the woman’s identity, Temple wrote, including the need to show the lottery itself is being conducted fairly. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that the public has a right to know the amounts of lottery winnings being paid, and to whom that money is going.”
“(T)he Court likewise holds that the public has an interest in learning the identity of lottery winners, because those winners receive their payments directly from a public entity, and learning the identity of the winners enables scrutiny of those payments,” Temple wrote.
But, since there is no credible evidence the Lottery Commission is engaged in any corrupt activity, and because the Commission already allows people to collect their money anonymously, Temple ruled that the woman’s right to privacy means she can remain Jane Doe, though he is allowing for the release of her
The Commission, through a statement put out Monday afternoon, said it is considering an appeal of Temple’s ruling.
“While we were expecting a different outcome and believed the state had a strong argument, we respect the court’s decision,” the statement reads. “That said, we will consult with the Attorney General’s office to determine appropriate next steps regarding the case.”
Jane Does already has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity since collecting her winnings, and Shaheen said she hopes to give away between $25 and $50 million.
Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_DF.