Mathis attorney ready for appeal
The jury in the Kelly Mathis trial hasn’t reached a verdict yet, but his attorney is ready for an appeal, if Mathis is convicted.
Mitch Stone said there are “tons of reasons for appeal.”
He specifically talked about Judge Kenneth Lester not letting the jury hear that 30 of the 57 people charged in the Allied Veterans of the World gambling and racketeering case have escaped jail or serious charges.
“We were denied our theory of defense,” Stone said. “I’ve won cases like this on appeal.”
The jury began its deliberations about noon Thursday after four weeks of testimony. Jurors return today to continue their discussions.
The 50-year-old Mathis faces 104 charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life for his role in helping set up a series of Internet cafes that brought in $300 million.
Stone has repeatedly said Mathis was just the lawyer for Allied Veterans and was not involved in the operation of the casinos. Prosecutors have called Mathis the mastermind behind a scheme to disguise an illegal gambling operation as a way to help veterans’ charities.
Allied Veterans Commander Jerry Bass, former Commander Johnny Duncan and Chase Burns, whose company developed the software to run the machines in the cafes, have all accepted pleas with no jail time.
Stone said some of those arrested have had millions in sweepstakes profits returned to them.
So far, Mathis is the only one who has faced a jury. “Kelly Mathis is the only one,” Stone said.
Among the defendants whose cases have not been settled are Nelson Cuba, longtime president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, and Robbie Freitas, who was vice president of the FOP.
In a rebuttal statement Thursday, statewide prosecutor Nick Cox said Mathis misled and deceived the customers of the Internet cafes and state officials.
“He was playing games with (the law),” Cox said. “The whole case has been a head-fake.”
The Internet cafes required customers to sign statements saying they knew they weren’t gambling, but the sweepstakes games still operated like slot machines.
Cox said the Allied Veterans owners, guided by Mathis, set about to disguise a gambling operation.
“There was no game promotion going on,” Cox said. “They were there to make money.”
Cox showed the jury a computer graphic that appeared to be a slot machine, which was used by the cafe to “reveal” whether the customer’s swipe card was a winner in the predetermined sweepstakes.
“This is the reason people came into these stores,” Cox said.
One female customer accumulated 10 years of Internet time, which she said she had no interest in using.
In closing arguments Wednesday, the defense said that the cafes operated in compliance with state law that was in place at the time.
Cox pointed out that the cafes returned 90 to 93 percent in sweepstakes winnings.
“Who returns that kind of money?” Cox said. “A casino.”