BECKLEY – Two Summers County women accuse Powerball winner Jack Whittaker of assault and battery, groping them, threatening to kill one of their friends and illegally firing a gun.
Sarah Mantell and Michelle Gross filed the lawsuit Jan. 13 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Beckley.
The women claim Whittaker was drinking at Bobcat's Den, a bar in Hinton in Summers County on Nov. 22, 2004, when he approached Mantell and asked her if she wanted a drink and handed her a $100 bill. He then allegedly gave her another $100 bill to play the jukebox.
About 45 minutes later, Whittaker asked Mantell and Gross and their friends if they wanted to leave the bar with him. One of their friends suggested they all go to his father's camp on LightFoot Road in Summers County. So Whittaker, the plaintiffs and their friends did that, according to the suit.
Once there, the women say Whittaker went upstairs to a bedroom where he stayed almost the entire time. After about 10 minutes, Whittaker yelled for someone to come upstairs. So Mantell and Gross did so.
Once there, the women claim Whittaker began questioning them about some of his belongings. They say they tried to explain to him where the items were but that Whittaker "was too intoxicated to understand."
The plaintiffs and their friends then decided to leave, and a woman in the group went to ask Whittaker if he was ready to go. Whittaker, the suit claims, wouldn't respond to the question so Mantell and Gross went to get him to leave.
That's when Whittaker, the women claim, "started asking them to get into bed with him."
The women say they tried to ignore Whittaker's requests, but he "stated he wasn't leaving until he got some sex," so they told him they were leaving.
Then, the suit alleges, Whittaker got out of bed with his pants and boots off and started verbally assaulting the plaintiffs by calling them "stupid bitches." The women also say Whittaker took a gun out of his left boot.
Whittaker accused the plaintiffs of robbing him and told them they weren't going anywhere, according to the suit. The women say they tried to tell Whittaker they didn't rob him, but he wouldn't listen.
Whittaker then backed Mantell and Gross against a wall "waving his gun in their faces and telling them to take their clothes off. He then pulled on the shirt of plaintiff Gross and groped her breasts."
Then, the suit claims, Whittaker grabbed the front of Mantell's pants.
"He unbuttoned them and stuck his hand down the front of her pants while waving the gun at her the entire time," the suit states. "The entire time defendant Whittaker was waving the gun around, he was saying, 'I will (expletive) you bitches up.'"
That's when, according to the complaint, one of the men downstairs heard the threats and went upstairs. The man asked Whittaker what was going on. Whittaker turned to the man and told the plaintiffs, "I am going to kill him."
Then, the suit says, the plaintiffs ran into the hallway and down the stairs. When they were at the bottom of the stairs, Mantell and Gross say they heard two gunshots.
Mantell says she hid in a closet when she heard Whittaker coming down the stairs and saying he was "going to kill somebody."
The women say Whittaker then began running around the camp screaming. He went to the porch and fired his gun three more times, the women claim, before going through the house again screaming for the man and saying he was "going to kill someone."
Then, the women say, Whittaker went outside and drove away in his Hummer. The women and their friends then left the camp.
In the four-count complaint, Mantell and Gross say Whittaker is guilty of intentional assault, intentional battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of a state statute for brandishing a deadly weapon, wanton endangerment involving a firearm, assault and battery and sexual assault in a threatening way or manner.
Hardison said he filed the lawsuit in federal court because Whittaker now lives in Virginia and he is confident the Summers County native has influence in the county. He did buy a $35,000 cruiser for the county Sheriff's Department, and he built a $4 million church in Hinton.
Hardison said Whittaker has not been charged with any crime in the incident. He said his clients hope to resolve the lawsuit.
"My girls aren't out to really ding him, I mean they would take a reasonable amount if he would settle," Hardison said.
In 2002, Whittaker won the single-largest lottery payout of $315 million with a cash option of more than $113 million.
But since then, he's had several run-ins the law. He was charged with DUI in Kanawha County in January 2004 after he was found sleeping in his vehicle along Interstate 64 in Nitro. Kanawha Magistrate Tim Halloran later suppressed sobriety test results, causing the case to be dropped.
Later that year, Whittaker was charged with -- and later pleaded no contest to -- assaulting a bar manager in Putnam County. He was put on two years probation and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Three floor attendants at Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center in Cross Lanes are currently suing Whittaker for allegedly assaulting them in 2003.
Mantell and Gross seek damages to compensate them for emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, annoyance, inconvenience, loss of physical health and well being and loss of enjoyment of life.
The plaintiffs also seek punitive damages in an amount adequate to punish and deter Whittaker and others from engaging in similar conduct. They also seek attorney fees, court costs, pre- and post-judgment interest as well as statutory, common law, equitable and other relief.
They request a jury trial
The case has been assigned to Chief Judge David A. Faber.