Court: Investigation took too long
IOWA CITY (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday overturned the conviction of a lottery employee implicated in a nationwide fixing scandal, saying his trial over a rigged $16.5 million jackpot was tainted by unjustified delays in the investigation.
The ruling is a victory for former Multi-State Lottery Association security director Eddie Tipton, whose lawyers argued that Iowa’s long-running inquiry into the 2010 jackpot let the statute of limitations expire. But it might have little practical impact.
Prosecutors this month agreed to vacate the conviction under a plea agreement, regardless of the court’s decision. The deal requires Tipton to plead guilty to ongoing criminal conduct for his efforts to rig other jackpots in Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wisconsin. Prosecutors are expected to seek a 25-year prison term for Tipton, who could enter his guilty plea in Iowa next week. The 56-year-old pleaded guilty in Wisconsin this month to rigging a $2 million 2007 jackpot.
Prosecutor Rob Sand declined to comment. Tipton’s attorney didn’t return messages.
Investigators say Tipton installed code on lottery computers that allowed him to predict the winning numbers on three days of the year. They say he worked with his brother, businessman Robert Rhodes and other associates to purchase and claim winning tickets from 2005 to 2011.
Friday’s ruling was limited to the first and biggest jackpot linked to Tipton, a $16.5 million Hot Lotto drawing in December 2010. Lawyers representing a Belize-based trust came forward a year later with the winning ticket hours before the deadline, but they wouldn’t say who bought it. The Iowa Lottery refused to pay and requested a criminal investigation.
After the case hit a dead-end, investigators in 2014 released surveillance video of a hooded man purchasing the winning ticket at a Des Moines gas station in 2010. Colleagues told investigators they believed the man was Tipton, who was charged and fired by the Urbandale-based association.
Jurors convicted Tipton in 2015 of fraudulently trying to redeem the ticket and tampering with lottery equipment. The court ruled Friday that the three-year statute of limitations was expired on the tampering charge, dismissing it. The court said the verdict on the redeeming charge was tainted because the statute of limitations ran out on two of three legal theories presented to jurors. The court ordered a retrial on that count, but it’s not expected to happen under the plea deal.