IOWA CITY, Iowa — Three friends involved in buying tickets and claiming jackpots that were allegedly fixed by a state lottery insider have something else unusual in common, prosecutors say: They hunt for Bigfoot in their spare time.
In a legal motion that is as strange as the elusive humanoid, Iowa prosecutor Rob Sand asked a judge Monday to bar any discussion of Bigfoot hunting at the upcoming trial of Eddie Tipton, the lottery official accused of fixing multiple jackpots.
"The prejudicial effect could potentially be as strong as Sasquatch itself," Sand wrote. "Jurors could be incredulous. They could find it unusual enough that it outweighs other evidence in their mind."
Tipton is the former Multi-State Lottery Association security director who is accused of rigging jackpots in Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma from 2005 to 2011 to enrich himself and his friends. Investigators say he manipulated the computers that run games for dozens of state lotteries so he could know winning combinations in advance. Then, they say he worked with accomplices including his brother Tommy Tipton to play those numbers and claim jackpots worth millions.
Eddie Tipton has been convicted of fraud in an attempt to claim a $16.5 million Hot Lotto jackpot in Iowa. He's expected to soon stand trial a second time on charges of ongoing criminal conduct and money laundering related to the jackpots in other states.
Sand wrote in his motion that Iowa's lengthy investigation has found that Bigfoot hunting is a hobby that Tommy Tipton — who recently resigned as a justice of the peace in Flatonia, Texas — shares with two unidentified friends who "were involved in purchasing or claiming jackpot-winning tickets." He said their relationships can be established without mentioning that quirky pastime, and that hauling Bigfoot into the proceeding would have "no probative value on the ultimate question."
The motion noted that members of the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization — which is dedicated to searching for the hairy humanoid in Southern states —"prefer to keep a low profile, due to the repercussions from their peers or employers."
That group distanced itself from the lottery scandal Tuesday, saying it hasn't had a Tommy Tipton sighting in years.
"It's been right at, or nearly 15 years since any of us, has conversed with him in any way, shape or form," founder Bobby Hamilton said.
Eddie Tipton's attorney, Dean Stowers, called the motion "kind of comical" and a publicity stunt. He contends that any evidence to prove the state's claim that his client tampered with machines is what's elusive.
"I think their whole case is a Bigfoot hunt. And now they want to prevent us from introducing evidence about real Bigfoot hunters?" he said, laughing.
Asked whether his client is known to search for Sasquatch as well, Stowers was unsure.
"I don't know if Eddie Tipton wants to be disclosed as a Bigfoot hunter or not but we'll certainly look into the whole Bigfoot issue and file a response," he said.