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Published: Wednesday, 1/7/2004

Lotto squabble goes to court as $162M ticket claimed

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Jemison: turned in the winning ticket, bet card Jemison: turned in the winning ticket, bet card
LUKE PALMISANO / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - A Cleveland area woman yesterday claimed the $162 million jackpot from the Mega Millions multistate lottery, but a few hours later a woman who claimed to have lost the winning ticket filed a lawsuit trying to block payment.

The Ohio Lottery Commission says the winner of the 11-state, Dec. 30 drawing is Rebecca Jemison, a 34-year-old hospital worker who lives in South Euclid, an eastern suburb of Cleveland.

Ms. Jemison turned in the winning ticket and her bet card yesterday morning at the Lottery Commission s headquarters in downtown Cleveland.

“A million and one things go through your mind after you ve won,” she said.

Lottery officials say they are confident that Ms. Jemison is the woman who hit the jackpot - and that the ticket was not lost or stolen. In addition to the winning ticket from the Dec. 30 drawing, Ms. Jemison had her ticket from the Dec. 26 drawing in which she had played the same numbers, said Mardele Cohen, spokesman for the state Lottery Commission.

An attorney representing Elecia Battle filed a lawsuit yesterday afternoon in Cuyahoga County seeking to block payment of the jackpot to Ms. Jemison. An attorney representing Elecia Battle filed a lawsuit yesterday afternoon in Cuyahoga County seeking to block payment of the jackpot to Ms. Jemison.
MARK DUNCAN / AP Enlarge

Nonetheless, an attorney representing Elecia Battle filed a lawsuit yesterday afternoon in Cuyahoga County seeking to block payment of the jackpot to Ms. Jemison.

Earlier yesterday, South Euclid police said they are investigating the lost item report that Ms. Battle of Cleveland filed last week. She could face a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report for claiming she had lost the winning ticket, said Chief Matthew Capadona.

The ticket for the Dec. 30 prize was sold at the Quick Shop Food Mart in South Euclid.

Ms. Battle, 40, told police on Friday she apparently lost the ticket after dropping her purse in the parking lot of the Quick Shop Food Mart. Her claim led to 30 people using flashlights Monday night to try to find the ticket outside the store.

No one can collect a lottery prize without a ticket, said Ms. Cohen of the Ohio Lottery Commission.

“A lottery ticket is like a bearer instrument; it is like having cash in your hand,” she said. Ms. Cohen and Ms. Jemison could not be reached for comment after Ms. Battle s lawsuit was filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Ms. Jemison stepped forward a day after learning of Ms. Battle s claim.

“I was angry at first but not worried at all,” Ms. Jemison said. “I knew what I possessed. After the initial shock I wanted to speak with an attorney, speak with an accountant, before I decided to actually come forward.”

Lottery officials said the ticket that Ms. Jemison presented to them yesterday morning was in “pristine shape,” appearing as if it never touched the ground.

Ms. Jemison said she had played what became the five winning numbers plus the Mega Ball - 12-18-21-32-46 plus 49 - “every now and then” for several years.

“One thing I want to make clear: Luck had nothing to do with it. It was truly a blessing, truly a blessing,” Ms. Jemison said.

She said on New Year s Eve she discovered she had chosen the winning numbers when she picked up a newspaper.

“I think I checked it about five or six times to make sure to see it was real,” she said.

She then headed for her mother s home. “Being a mamma s girl, I wanted to share the news with my mamma first,” Ms. Jemison said.

Ms. Jemison chose the cash option, which is worth $94.02 million before taxes. After taxes, she will receive $67.2 million.

Ms. Jemison said she and her husband, Sam, plan to move to another house. She also is expected to leave her job as the supervisor of telephone operators at the Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights. The Jemisons have a 12-year-old daughter.

For Ms. Cohen, the intense media interest in the first Mega Millions winner to have bought a ticket in Ohio has taken several twists since the Dec. 30 drawing.

When Jack Shah, the store s co-owner, arrived to open the Quick Shop Food Mart at 7:15 a.m. Dec. 31 and learned that the winning ticket had been purchased there, his response was: “I still need to open my business.”

Ms. Cohen said the Lottery Commission heard from Ms. Battle on Friday, and she was advised on the phone to hire an attorney and file a lost item report with police. The security camera at the convenience store was not working when the ticket was sold, police said.

The commission first heard from Ms. Jemison on Monday, when she phoned to ask about how the publicity would be handled when she stepped forward with the winning ticket.

Yesterday, after learning that Ms. Jemison had done so, South Euclid police opened an investigation into Ms. Battle s report.

“When [Ms. Jemison] came forward and she was very, very credible, we felt there was an issue with Ms. Battle s integrity. We are doing an investigation,” Chief Capadona said.

Ms. Battle could not be reached for comment.

When Ms. Jemison arrived yesterday morning at the Lottery Commission s headquarters, she was carrying a very thin day planner.

“She opened it up and had the ticket, the bet card, the handwritten list of numbers that she plays,” Ms. Cohen said.

Lottery officials hope the publicity will boost sales of Mega Millions tickets. Ohio joined the multistate lottery in May, 2002.

Friends of Ms. Jemison said yesterday afternoon they were still in shock after learning about her good fortune. Ms. Jemison has worked at Hillcrest Hospital since September, 1996.

“She s a wonderful person, a good worker, and good-hearted,” said Jennifer Davis, the hospital s spokesman. “It could not have happened to a better person.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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