A New Hampshire woman knew that when she won the $560 million Powerball lottery on January 6, she wanted her identity to remain anonymous because of the unavoidable notoriety that goes along with becoming extremely wealthy in an instant.
But according to lottery rules, her identity has to be revealed in order for her to receive her winnings, but she is now asking a judge to make an exception, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
“She doesn’t want to be a celebrity,” her lawyer, William Shaheen of Shaheen and Gordon law firm, told the newspaper. “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.”
Although she signed the back of the winning ticket along with her hometown — which made her essentially lose her right to anonymity — she has filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire Lottery Commission to keep her identity a secret.
The issue, the newspaper says, is that signing the ticket makes it a public document, according to Assistant Attorney General John Conforti.
If the woman — who goes by Jane Doe — loses her suit, security guards are already in place for her, says Shaheen.
The commission has already received Right-to-Know requests, including one from the New Hampshire Union Leader, and it’s up to the court to decide whether the winner’s signature will be made public.
“She has unlimited choices in life now,” said Charles McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.
He suggests that the first word she must learn to say going forward is “no” and that if her identity is revealed she should hold a press conference to answer questions from the media.
According to The Washington Post, she is losing $14,000 a day in interest for every day that the case is still pending. So far, it’s almost added up to half a million dollars.
“Petitioner’s understandable yearning for normalcy after entering a lottery to win hundreds of millions of dollars is not a sufficient basis to shut the public out of the business of government,” Assistant Attorney General John Conforti wrote in court documents, obtained by the NewHampshire.com.
“She is a longtime resident of New Hampshire and is an engaged community member,” her lawyers wrote in the court documents. “She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.”
With her winnings, she plans to give a portion of it to a charitable foundation “so that they may do good in the world,” he wrote in the document, and 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.”
The woman wants her prize money to be put in a trust, but even if that happens, the court documents read, the ticket will have to be submitted in it’s original form, which has her identity on it.
On Tuesday, her attorney, Steven Gordon, went to court and said this all could have been avoided if she had first assigned it to a trust.
“We come to the court today in a Catch 22, not in our own making,” he said, adding that if her name is revealed she will be harassed, annoyed and could possibly face threats or violence in the future.
Conforti said that “the lottery thrives on transparency” and that taxpayers have the right to know who she is so that the public knows the winner doesn’t have any ties to the lottery or the state.
“We have a substantial public interest in disclosure of those public documents,” he said.