Woman withdraws plea in Mega Millions case

Saturday, February 14, 2004

SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio -- A woman who claimed she lost a winning $162 million Mega Millions lottery ticket withdrew her plea of no contest on a charge that she made up the story she had told police. Elecia Battle changed her plea to innocent Thursday in South Euclid Municipal Court and will have a jury trial, authorities said Friday. Battle, 40, of Cleveland, had entered the plea of no contest Jan. 15 to a charge of filing a false police report. The plea was not an admission of guilt but meant Battle would not fight the charge punishable by one to six months in jail and $1,000 fine.

Battle had been found guilty by Judge Patricia Ann Kleri after the no contest plea was entered, and she was to have been sentenced next week. Now, with the plea withdrawn, a pretrial hearing would be scheduled for sometime in March, officials said.

Days after the Dec. 30 drawing in the multistate lottery, Battle had filed a police report saying she had bought the winning ticket but lost it. Battle said she dropped her purse outside the convenience store in suburban Cleveland where the winning ticket was sold.

When Rebecca Jemison, 34, produced the winning ticket and claimed the jackpot, Battle sued to block payment but later dropped her lawsuit and tearfully apologized.

Sheldon Starke, Battle's attorney, said Friday the court called Battle in and asked her if she wanted to change her plea. He would not elaborate.

No one answered the door Friday at Battle's home.

Jemison's accountant, Scott Snow, said Jemison would have no comment on the changed plea. Jemison was paid a lump-sum of $67.2 million after taxes.

The Ohio Lottery said it was confident Jemison was the winner all along. She provided another lottery ticket purchased at the same time and place and demonstrated that she had played the same numbers in the prior drawing, lottery officials said.

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