SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio – A woman who claimed she lost a winning $162 million Mega Millions (search) lottery ticket has changed her plea from no contest to innocent on a charge that she made up the story on a police report.
Elecia Battle (search) withdrew the plea Thursday in South Euclid Municipal Court and wants a jury trial, clerk Debra Roy said.
Battle, 40, of Cleveland, had entered the no contest plea on Jan. 15. The no contest plea was not an admission of guilt, but meant Battle would not fight the charge punishable by one month to six months in jail and $1,000 fine.
Days after the Dec. 30 Mega Millions drawing, Battle 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, of South Euclid, produced the winning ticket and claimed the jackpot, Battle sued to block payment but later dropped her lawsuit and tearfully apologized.
Battle had been found guilty by Judge Patricia Ann Kleri after the no contest plea. The plea switch came before she was to be sentenced next week.
The court said a pretrial hearing would be scheduled for sometime in March.
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.
South Euclid Law Director Michael Lograsso said Battle's change of plea was a surprise to the city, which he said has already spent valuable time and money on the misdemeanor case.
"Unfortunately, for us, it's more resources that we have to put into this. Unfortunately, people are going to be dragged in as jurors," Lograsso said.
Battle and her attorney expressed in court that they want a change of venue, but not have filed a motion with the court.
"That's up to the judge," Lograsso said.
Asked if he'd ever had a request for a change of venue on a misdemeanor he said, "There really hasn't been a case like this before."