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By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
Judge Charles Temple ruled Monday that $560 million Powerball winner “Jane Doe’s” hometown must be revealed, but her name is exempt from disclosure under the state’s right-to-know law.
“The Court finds that disclosure of Ms. Doe’s name ‘would constitute (an) invasion of privacy’ under RSA 91-A:5, IV.,” Temple wrote in an order released from Hillsborough County Superior Court Southern District in Nashua.
The order permanently enjoined the Lottery Commission from disclosing her name pursuant to any future right-to-know request, or to any other person or entity unless authorized by law.
“Nothing in this order, however, shall be construed to prevent the Commission or its employees from processing, maintaining or accessing Ms. Doe’s ticket in the normal course of business,” Temple wrote.
Jane Doe bought the winning ticket Jan. 6 at Reeds Ferry Market in Merrimack. The Attorney General’s Office didn’t immediately return a call to see if it will appeal the judge’s ruling.
The Lottery’s executive director Charlie McIntyre said: “While we were expecting a different outcome and believed the State had a strong argument, we respect the court’s decision. That said, we will consult with the Attorney General’s office to determine appropriate next steps regarding the case.”
After Jane Doe realized she had won, the winner filled in the back of the ticket, then contacted lawyers who told her that a trustee of a trust could collect the prize and she could remain anonymous.
Her attorneys released a statement on Monday saying the winner lives in Merrimack.
“We won. It’s great,” said Attorney William Shaheen, of Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. “The Lottery Commission has a right to say the winner came from Merrimack, but everything else she is entitled to a right to privacy. The Commission is enjoined from ever releasing her name or address permanently. Period.”
Shaheen, who represents the winner with Attorney Steven Gordon, got to break the good news to the lottery winner.
“She was jumping up and down,” Shaheen said. “She will be able to live her life normally.”
The court had allowed Jane Doe to claim her prize through the Good Karma Family 2018 Nominee Trust facilitated through the law firm with Shaheen serving as trustee while awaiting the ruling. Last week, the trust made donations totaling nearly $250,000 to Girls Inc. and three chapters of End 68 Hours of Hunger.
Temple said the Lottery Commission maintained that it would be required to disclose the name of the winner and hometown if it received a right-to-know request.
The Lottery Commission argued that the name and hometown must be disclosed under the right-to-know law because the public “has an interest in ensuring the games played are on the level and that the winners are bonafide lottery participants,” Temple wrote.
“Rather, after considering the record and the arguments, the court finds that Ms. Doe has met her burden of showing that her privacy interest in the nondisclosure of her name outweighs the public’s interest in the disclosure of her name,” Temple wrote.
Temple also wrote: “As discussed above, the Court has no doubts whatsoever that should Ms. Doe’s identity be revealed, she will be subject to an alarming amount of harassment, solicitation, and other unwanted communications.”
This winner marks the 11th Powerball jackpot winner in New Hampshire history. In 2016, a New Hampshire player won a $487 million winning Powerball ticket purchased at the Hannaford Supermarket in Raymond. That prize was claimed through the Robin Egg 2016 Nominee Trust, which was created by Attorney Shaheen, and he serves as its trustee.