DES MOINES, Iowa—A man serving a 25-year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit theft by rigging computers to win jackpots for himself, friends and family is suing the state of Iowa, claiming he was pressured four years ago to plead guilty to crimes he did not commit.
Eddie Tipton filed documents starting the lawsuit from prison in Clarinda, Iowa, in January 2020. He wants the court to halt all restitution he’s been ordered to pay until a trial is held, during which he said he will present documents and other evidence to persuade the court to reverse his sentence.
“The sentence is cruel and unusual because it has been applied to an actually innocent person simply to see that he is charged with a crime,” he said in court documents.
The state last week asked that the lawsuit be dismissed. A hearing will be held Nov. 14 to consider setting a new trial date.
Tipton worked at an Urbandale, Iowa, organization that provided random number drawing computers to several lottery states. Investigators said he installed code on lottery computers that allowed him to predict the winning numbers on three days of the year.
Tipton, at his 2017 Iowa sentencing hearing, told the judge he “wrote software that included code that allowed me to understand or technically predict winning numbers, and I gave those numbers to other individuals who then won the lottery and shared the winnings with me.”
Tipton accepted a plea agreement and was ordered to repay $2 million in ill-gotten winnings from lotteries in Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma. An Iowa jury also convicted him of attempting to take $16.5 million from a rigged Iowa lottery game in December 2010, but the Iowa Supreme Court in 2017 overruled the decision, saying the state took too long to prosecute him.
Tipton, who has been in prison since August 2017, now claims he was placed under duress to plead guilty. He also alleges Iowa officials charged him for restitution in states for which it has no jurisdiction, and he says he can’t pay.
It’s not clear what happened to the money Tipton and associates got from the lottery games between 2005 and 2011. He worked with his brother Tommy Tipton and others to purchase and claim winning tickets at least seven times, netting more than $2 million. Tipton has said he ended up with only $351,000.
Assistant Attorney General William Hill asked a judge Nov. 4 to dismiss Tipton’s lawsuit, arguing in a filing that the lawsuit is barred by the statute of limitations and should be dismissed as frivolous.
Hill also said by filing the lawsuit Tipton is violating the terms of his June 29, 2017, plea agreement involving potential cases in multiple states and that the violation “provides the opportunity for all jurisdictions to re-initiate criminal charges stemming from Tipton’s actions.”
Tipton, who has been appointed an attorney, now claims that the Iowa Supreme Court dismissal in 2017 removed the basis for the crime he ended up pleading to.
“The applicant received a favorable decision in the Iowa Supreme Court wherein the court stated that there was not a continuing or ‘ongoing’ crime; nor was there a continuing threat and, therefore, the sentence for ongoing criminal conduct is bogus and illegal,” he wrote.
As part of a plea agreement to settle cases in multiple states he pleaded guilty in June 2017 to theft and computer crime charges in Wisconsin and to ongoing criminal conduct in Iowa.
By David Pitt