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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

Woman who said she lost lotto ticket backs off, drops suit

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The Cleveland woman who claimed that she lost the winning ticket to the $162 million Mega Millions jackpot all but admitted yesterday that she never had the winning ticket.

A tearful Elecia Battle said she is dropping the lawsuit that her attorney filed Tuesday after Rebecca Jemison turned in the winning ticket and the Ohio Lottery Commission said it was confident Ms. Jemison had bought the ticket.

“I wanted to win,” Ms. Battle told reporters yesterday. “The numbers were so overwhelming. I did buy a ticket and I lost it. I wanted to win so bad for my kids and my family. I apologize.”

Although Ms. Battle dropped her lawsuit - which had sought to block payment to Ms. Jemison and get access to the winning ticket so DNA tests possibly could be done on it - Ms. Battle remains in hot water with police.

After Ms. Jemison Tuesday came forward to claim the jackpot from the Dec. 30 drawing, South Euclid police started an investigation into whether Ms. Battle filed a false report.

On Jan. 2, Ms. Battle, 40, filed a “lost item” report, telling police she thought she had lost the winning ticket when she dropped her purse in the parking lot of the Quick Shop Food Mart in South Euclid.

Ms. Battle, who has seven children, also told police that she had picked the winning numbers by combining birthdays and ages from her family.

She is expected to be charged next week with filing a false police report, said South Euclid Police Lt. Kevin Nietert. It is a first-degree misdemeanor with a penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.

After the lawsuit was filed, it was revealed in news accounts that Ms. Battle has a criminal record that includes misusing another person s credit card and assaulting a drug store clerk.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, we are bamboozled by the best of them,” Lieutenant Nietert said.

He also said Ms. Battle s attorney, Sheldon Starke, could face sanctions for filing the lawsuit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Mr. Starke didn t return several messages at his office this week.

Dennis Kennedy, director of the Ohio Lottery Commission, said in a written statement: “We were confident with our decision from the outset to award Rebecca Jemison the $162 million Mega Millions jackpot, and we are pleased that this matter has been resolved.

“We hope that this will allow Mrs. Jemison to enjoy her good fortune without any future distraction, and we wish her continued success in the future,” he said.

Ms. Jemison, a 34-year-old hospital worker who lives in the eastern Cleveland suburb of South Euclid, chose the cash option that is worth $94.02 million before taxes. After taxes, she will receive $67.2 million.

A leading anti-gambling activist said it won t be the last time that dreams of a big payoff will cause someone to lie.

“The reality here is that lotteries and state-sponsored gambling bring out the worst in people,” said David Zanotti, president of the Ohio Roundtable, a Strongsville-based group.

But Ms. Cohen of the Ohio Lottery Commission said Ms. Battle s admission shouldn t be an indictment of the lottery.

“You have a population in Ohio of over 11 million people. You had one person that tried to take advantage of the situation,” she said.

In a week in which Pete Rose admitted to betting on baseball as manager of the Cincinnati Reds - and admitted it as part of book tour after 14 years of lying - there s a lesson to be learned from what happened to Ms. Battle, Lieutenant Nietert said.

“All you have to do is look at what she has put herself through - people questioning her integrity and character. Look at Pete Rose. People knew he was lying.”

This report includes information from the Associated Press.



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