SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Defense attorneys had the chance this morning to question a lottery investigator who interviewed two brothers claiming to have won $5 million off a scratch-off ticket sold at their father's store.
Jay Hemlock, who was called to the stand Tuesday afternoon by prosecutor Beth Van Doren, was in court for further testimony this morning.
Hemlock said he investigated Andy and Nayel Ashkar's claim for $5 million with the New York State Lottery. The brothers are on trial in Onondaga County Court before Judge Joseph Fahey on charges of conspiracy.
Andy Ashkar, 34, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property for allegedly stealing the ticket from convenience store customer Robert Miles, a Syracuse maintenance worker, in 2006.
By the end of the second day of the trial, the prosecution had called three lottery officials, the Ashkars' accountant and one of the Ashkars' lawyers to the stand.
Because the brothers waived their right to a jury trial Monday, the facts of the case are being decided by Judge Fahey. The courtroom opened today at 9 a.m.
The following are updates compiled during today's testimony.
10:20 a.m. Witnesses have been called more quickly and somewhat out of order this morning as the trial of two brothers accused of stealing a winning $5 million lottery ticket from a maintenance worker continues.
Ismael Pizarro, who worked at Parkside Commons with the man who says Andy Ashkar stole the winning ticket from him in 2006, was called to the stand when the courtroom opened this morning.
Pizarro said Robert Miles told coworkers in October of 2006 that he had won the lottery.
He said he saw Miles with a scratch-off ticket that he said was a winner, but couldn't tell what kind it was or what it was worth.
Pizarro does not speak English fluently, and spoke in court this morning through an interpreter. Pizarro said he asked Miles to buy rims from him after he found out he had won "some" money.
The next witness called by prosecutor Beth Van Doren was Syracuse Police Detective James Burns.
Burns said he visited Robert Miles in October 2012 in response to information from an informant regarding the recent announcement of Andy and Nayel Ashkar as $5 million lottery winners.
Van Doren then called Onondaga County District Attorney investigator James Palliota to the stand. He testified that bank records he pulled on Andy Ashkar show a $2,000 withdrawal on Oct. 27, 2006.
Judge Joseph Fahey broke for his regular calendar at 10 a.m.
12:15 p.m. Defense attorney Robert Durr asked a lottery security head why Robert Miles wasn't investigated after he said he was the real winner of a $5 million lottery ticket two brothers had tried to claim in March of 2012.
Jay Hemlock, a security director with the state lottery, said he had not heard of Robert Miles until the lottery sent out a press release in the fall with information about Andy and Nayel Ashkar and the $5 million ticket.
"Wouldn't it be fair to say, because of the investigation you had already conducted, because you told us you were equipped and it is your job — at that point, you should have conducted an investigation?" Durr asked.
"No," Hemlock responded. "At this stage, (Miles) was the final chip... Since we do not have law enforcement status, we referred it to law enforcement."
Hemlock added that the lottery can still investigate Miles' claim if and when he formally files one with the state.
Defense attorney Robert Tisdell began cross-examination of Hemlock just before court was recessed for lunch.
3 p.m. Robert Miles, a man who says he has been cheated out of $5 million, took the stand this afternoon in the trial of two brothers accused of conspiring to steal the prize.
Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren handed Miles what has been marked as "exhibit no. 1" and asked him what he saw.
"This my $5 million ticket," he said. Miles animatedly testified about how Andy Ashkar allegedly ripped the ticket out of hands when he realized he had won.
Miles said he bought the $20 scratch off on a Thursday in October. He knew it was Thursday, he said, because that was pay day. He said he had gotten high on crack cocaine the night before, but hadn't taken any drugs that day.
He said he started scratching it in the store, then finished outside of the store. When he figured out he had won, he said he ran back into The Green Ale Market with the news.
He said Andy Ashkar and Andy's father, Nayef, were present. Miles said Andy snatched the ticket out of his hand and told him it was only worth $5,000.
"He said, 'they wouldn't sell $5 million in the hood,' Miles recounted.
A small break was called.
3:30 p.m. Tensions escalated between defense attorneys and Robert Miles during cross examination this afternoon, and a five minute break was called so Miles could gather himself.
Miles came unraveled after defense attorney Robert Durr asked him specifics about the day he says he won $5 million off a scratch-off at The Green Ale Market in Syracuse in 2006.
"I know what that guy did to me," said Miles, looking at Andy Ashkar. "Don't sit here and make me look like I did something wrong. They took six years of my life, and you sit here badgering me?"
Judge Joseph Fahey asked Miles to calm down and a short break was called.
4:15 p.m. Despite a short break called during the cross examination of Robert Miles, who says Andy Ashkar stole a winning $5 million lottery ticket from him in 2006, emotions continued to run high as soon as he returned to the stand.
Asked by defense attorney Robert Durr why he didn't go to police or lottery officials when the ticket was allegedly stolen from him, Miles became obviously agitated, raising his voice with each new answer.
"What was I going to tell police?" he asked. "I didn't have nothing. What was I against a store owner? Who am I — a crackhead against a store owner?"
Durr asked if he had a vehicle he could have driven to a police station or lottery office.
Miles said no, then quickly said that he had. Durr asked about a statement he made during direct examination when he told Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren that he wasn't "delusional" but just "tired" that day, because he'd been up all night before smoking crack.
"You ever been on crack?" Miles asked. "You can't tell me how I was feeling."
Miles accused Durr of putting words in his mouth, and Durr told him to take his time to answer questions. By 3:50 p.m., after Judge Joseph Fahey asked Miles to calm down for a second time, the judge decided to end for the day.
Testimony will resume in the morning, and Fahey asked Miles to return at 9 a.m.