Lottery winner must pay for court-appointed attorney

Woman who won $1 million faces meth charges

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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There was only one problem with Megan Gatlin’s using a court-appointed attorney in her upcoming criminal trial: She’s a lottery winner.

The 28-year-old Vancouver woman won $1 million this spring in the Oregon Lottery’s St. Patrick’s Day Raffle. So when she appeared Friday in Clark County Superior Court to face charges of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and third-degree theft, her attorney questioned the appointment.

Defense attorney John Peterson was appointed to represent Gatlin in May. Gatlin collected her winnings, which were estimated to be about $670,000 after taxes, in April.

Peterson told Superior Court Judge Dan Stahnke he didn’t think it was appropriate for the county to pick up the tab for Gatlin’s defense, as she clearly wasn’t indigent.

Stahnke asked why a judge would appoint Peterson to the case in the first place. Apparently, Peterson said, the court didn’t know Gatlin was a lottery winner.

Gatlin explained that she had answered all of the questions the court official asked her when trying to determine eligibility for a court-appointed attorney. The court official asked about Gatlin’s income and residency. Gatlin told the woman she was unemployed and lived with her mother.

The court official never asked Gatlin how much money she had in the bank, Gatlin said.

Gatlin told the judge Friday that she won $1 million in the lottery and had the money in her bank account. At that, Stahnke relieved the attorney of his indigent defense duties.

Peterson will still represent Gatlin when she goes to trial in November — just not on the taxpayer’s dime.

After Peterson questioned the appointment, Gatlin hired the Vancouver lawyer to represent her.