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US judge rules lottery winner of US$560m can remain undisclosed
[BOSTON] The winner of a US$560 million Powerball jackpot - one of the largest prizes in United States history - can remain anonymous, a New Hampshire judge ruled on Monday.
The woman who bought the winning ticket in January had gone to court to keep her name from being made public. Her lawyers argued that she feared being overwhelmed with requests for a share of her winnings and was concerned about her safety.
The state had argued that the names of lottery winners must be disclosed to ensure that prizes are distributed fairly and that winners are not related to lottery employees.
In the end, the court sided with the woman, saying disclosing her name would amount to an invasion of privacy.
Should her identity be revealed, "she will be subject to an alarming amount of harassment, solicitation and other unwanted communications", Judge Charles Temple of the Hillsborough Superior Court Southern District wrote in a 15-page decision.
Still, the judge said, the winner's hometown, Merrimack, New Hampshire, would have to be disclosed. He said she could not be identified by this bit of information and saw no reason to keep it secret.
The judge dismissed the state's argument that disclosing her name would show the public that the lottery system is above board. He said there was "no evidence" that the New Hampshire Lottery Commission was engaged in corrupt activity and noted that the winning numbers are drawn in Florida anyway.
The commission already allows winners to sign their tickets with the name of a trust instead of the individual's name, the judge noted, in essence allowing winners to be anonymous. As a result, he said, the commission's argument that there is a "strong public interest in disclosing the identity" of the winners "is simply not persuasive".
Billy Shaheen, a lawyer for the New Hampshire winner, who was described in court papers only as Jane Doe, said that his client was elated to hear the news.
She had already received her after-tax winnings of US$264 million while the judge mulled her claim to privacy.
"New Hampshire has a long tradition of protecting and preserving the right of privacy, and people pride themselves on it, in the 'Live Free or Die' scenario we have in this state," Mr Shaheen said.
He said that his client was now reflecting on how best to use her windfall to benefit others. She has already donated a combined US$250,000 to Girls Inc of New Hampshire, an empowerment group for girls, and three chapters of End 68 Hours of Hunger, which provides meals for school children during the weekends.
An essential decision ahead, Mr Shaheen said, will be for the winner to determine whether to spend the money while she is alive or to create a more enduring fund, like a foundation or endowment.