IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Lawyers reversed course on Tuesday and dropped a subpoena in which they had ordered an Iowa journalist to turn over notes related to his book about a lottery industry insider who rigged jackpots in several states.
The withdrawal of the subpoena for journalist Perry Beeman’s notes came hours after The Associated Press reported that it had been issued and sought materials that were likely protected by Iowa’s reporter privilege law.
Beeman co-wrote a recent book, “The $80 billion Gamble,” with former Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich. It tells the inside story of how now-imprisoned lottery security contractor Eddie Tipton altered number-drawing programs on computers to win jackpots for himself, friends and family in Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The subpoena had been filed by lawyers for Larry Dawson, an Iowa jackpot winner who contends that Tipton’s rigging reduced his prize by millions of dollars. They had notified the court of the subpoena Aug. 16 and served it on Beeman last week. The subpoena ordered Beeman to turn over by Sept. 16 all of his correspondence with Rich since January 2018, including notes related to four interviews they conducted last year.
Beeman didn’t respond to the subpoena before it was withdrawn, but he did indicate that he likely would not have complied with it.
“I’m happy that he’s withdrawn the subpoena,” Beeman said. “I think the information was privileged. The Iowa Supreme Court has been pretty clear that the type of information sought was off limits.”
One of Dawson’s attorneys, Blake Hanson, confirmed that the subpoena had been withdrawn but didn’t immediately explain the reason why.
The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a reporter’s sources, unpublished information and notes are privileged material and may be subject to court-ordered disclosure only under rare circumstances. The legal precedent suggests that lawyers issuing subpoenas to reporters may be successful only if they show they have a substantial need for the information and have exhausted less burdensome means of obtaining it.
Dawson is suing the Iowa Lottery and the Multi-State Lottery Association, where Tipton worked. He contends that a $9 million Hot Lotto jackpot that he won in 2011 should have been nearly three times as big.
Tipton had purchased the winning ticket for the previous, $16.5 million jackpot that he rigged and had associates claim. Rich, then the Iowa Lottery chief, refused to pay the award because the person who claimed the prize would not reveal who had bought the ticket. Rich requested a criminal investigation that ultimately uncovered Tipton’s stunning scheme, in which he installed computer code that allowed him to predict winning combinations on certain days of the year.
Dawson’s lawsuit contends that under the game’s rules, the $16.5 million prize should have rolled over to the next jackpot, which he won. Instead, the proceeds went back to the states that sponsored the game. The Iowa Lottery used its share for a “Mystery Millionaire” promotion, which included a $1 million prize drawn at the Iowa State Fair.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 2.
Dawson is represented by the Crawford Law Firm, which recently helped obtain a $4.3 million class-action settlement to reimburse lottery players nationwide who bought tickets for drawings that were rigged. A court still needs to approve the settlement, including a request for $1.43 million in legal fees for the firm and other lawyers who represented the plaintiffs.