FLORIDA COURT CONVICTS INTERNET CAFE GAMBLING CHIEF
12th October, 2013 at 02:35:17
Kelly Mathis found guilty on all but one of 104 counts.
Despite his repeated protestations that he was only a legal advisor, Kelly Mathis has been convicted on all but one of the 104 charges he was facing in connection with the Allied Veterans internet cafe gambling bust.
NBC10 Philadelphia reported Saturday that Mathis was the first of 57 defendants to go to trial in a case that led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had worked as a consultant for the Allied Veterans charity.
A Florida court convicted Mathis Friday of using the veterans' organisation as a front for a $300 million gambling operation that caused the state Legislature to ban so-called Internet cafes offering sweepstakes-style online gambling (see previous reports).
Six jurors deliberated for more than 14 hours over two days before finding Mathis guilty of possessing slot machines, helping to operate a lottery and racketeering.
Sentence will be passed in February next year, and in the meantime Mathis has been released on bond.
The Jacksonville lawyer said he was shocked by the decision.
"I gave legal advice as an attorney, that's all I did," Mathis said as he left the courtroom. "Attorneys all over the nation need to be very afraid when six years after you give legal advice, somebody disagrees with that legal advice and they convict you of a crime."
Mathis's legal representative complained that the defence was constrained by the decisions of the presiding judge that limited the evidence that Mathis was allowed to introduce.
The judge limited testimony from witnesses about efforts by local governments and the state Legislature to regulate Internet cafes. Such testimony would have been valuable to the defence since it would be impossible to argue something was illegal if governments were setting regulations for it, Mathis' attorneys said.
Prosecutor Nick Cox commented: "You can't use the practice of law as a shield. It doesn't make me happy to convict a lawyer. What message does that send to the public?"
Cox led evidence that Mathis and his associates built up the network of online casinos by claiming they were businesses where customers could buy Internet time, when in reality most customers played slot machine games on computers and didn't use the Internet.
Even though the Internet cafes were being operated under the aegis of Allied Veterans of the World, very little of the $300 million the Allied Veteran affiliates earned actually went to veterans, prosecutors alleged, claiming that Mathis and his law firm earned $1.5 million a year from the Allied Veterans work.
About half of the 57 defendants arrested across several states in connection with the Allied Veterans internet cafe gambling bust have reached some kind of agreement with prosecutors, according to widespread reports in the US media. Among them are former Allied Veterans of the World leaders Johnny Duncan and Jerry Bass, as well as Chase Burns, who operated a company that made software for computers at the dozens of Allied Veterans centres around Florida.
The rest have yet to have their cases resolved.
During the trial defence attorneys for Mathis called to the witness stand a former City of Jacksonville attorney who testified he had agreed with Mathis' interpretation of the law that the Internet cafes were legal. They also called other law enforcement officials and municipal attorneys who said they had never found anything wrong with Mathis' interpretation of the law.
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