Over a span of three days in February 2004, Curtis Lee Doe entered a southeast Georgia convenience store and, taking advantage of an unmanned cash register, helped himself to $95 in lottery tickets.
Doe was indicted "for falsely uttering a state lottery ticket," a little-known law with big consequences -- five years imprisonment, in this case.
On Monday, Georgia's Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Doe's lawyers, who had said the theft of 65 scratch-off tickets from the store in Glennville didn't rise to the level of tampering with lottery materials, as spelled out in the statute.
"[A]ny person who influences or attempts to influence the winning of a prize through the use of coercion, fraud, deception or tampering with lottery equipment or materials shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $50,000 or by imprisonment for not longer than five years," the statute reads.
Doe's long rap sheet, which includes convictions for shoplifting and the possession of a firearm while committing a felony, contributed to his sentence, according to the filing.
The state Lottery Commission has been looking to crack down on cheats but has been limited by a lack of case law establishing such thefts as felonies, Sandra Dutton, who prosecuted the case, told the Fulton County Daily Report.
Dutton said she was unaware of the lottery statute until a local law enforcement officer cited it in Doe's warrant. It had been previously used against a defendant who presented stolen tickets to be redeemed for prizes, according to the Court of Appeals.
"The Lottery Commission will be very glad about this," Dutton told the Daily Report.
Doe was caught on video scratching the tickets he had stolen to see if he had won. (He didn't.) The Supreme Court, in upholding the decision, said Doe "did indeed engage in underhanded dealings in an an attempt to influence the winning of a lottery prize."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is attempting to reach Dutton and the attorney for Curtis Lee Doe.