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Convicted rapist now charged with a 1988 murder loses a legal battle - over state's refusal to let him enter last year's vaccine lottery drawings

A federal judge ruled today the Massachusetts Lottery Commission had the right to bar Ricardo Mazzarino from entering any of the $1-million drawings it held last year to encourage people to get Covid-19 shots.

Mazzarino, who has been held at Bridgewater State Hospital long after his sentence ran out for raping an elderly woman in Revere in 1987, filed a federal lawsuit over his inability to have his name entered for the drawings on Sept. 15. The next month, he was arraigned on charges he raped and murder another woman 11 months after raping the Revere woman.

In his suit, Mazzarino, also known as Richard Vega, claimed $5 million in damages - $1 million for each of the giveaways - because after he got a Covid-19 shot, he was not allowed to enter the lotteries.

Mazzarino argued the rules only barred people behind bars on criminal charges, and he had spent the previous 13 years locked up at Bridgewater as a "civil" detainee, after a Suffolk Superior Court jury concluded in 2008 he was still sexually dangerous and that he needed to remain behind bars even after finishing his criminal sentence for the Revere rape.

In her 16-page ruling today, US District Court Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley agreed with the lottery commission and state Treasurer Deb Goldberg that Mazzarino had no case.

Even aside from the fact that the Eleventh Amendment bars lawsuits against state governments without their permission - which Massachusetts declined to give - Kelley said the rules Mazzarino referred to in fact allowed the state to bar entries to people locked up on civil commitments as well.

"Pursuing a public health initiative by incentivizing vaccination is a legitimate governmental purpose," and trying to avoid "the potential bad publicity of having a detained person 'win and be the public face of the giveaway,' " is a legitimate condition of that purpose, she wrote.

Defendants’ contention - that it would have undermined the initiative through negative publicity if a detainee had won VaxMillions and had been featured online—is rationally related to the Commonwealth’s legitimate interest of encouraging vaccination among residents. Thus, defendants have demonstrated a "plausible factual basis" for excluding civil detainees from participation.

She said the rule did not violate Mazzarino's right to equal treatment under the law, because that only applies in certain well defined cases, such as race, sex and national origin. People who are locked up, whether under criminal or civil laws, are not one of those groups, she wrote.

Similarly, depriving him of the right to enter the drawings did not deprive him of his right to due process, she continued. Citing another case, she said that to make his case, Mazzarino would have had to show that "a state actor deprived [him] of a recognized life, liberty, or property interest, and that [defendants] did so through conscience-shocking behavior."

Was the ability to enter a state-sponsored lottery a right? Kelley concluded it was not. While federal courts in Massachusetts have yet to rule specifically on prize lotteries, they have concluded that lotteries for other purposes, such as school assignments, are not a right that needs court protection - and that courts in other parts of the country have ruled against such an idea, and so,

The court cannot find that entry into a state-sponsored lottery is a fundamental right.

PDF icon Complete complaint164.42 KB
PDF icon Mazzarino's complaint459.82 KB

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The court got this one wrong. He's owed damages of 80-cents, the expected value of his COVID lottery winnings.