Allied Veterans prosecutor says there have been early plea talks with Nelson Cuba, Robbie Freitas
The lead prosecutor in the Allied Veterans of the World gambling case said there have been plea discussions with two former Jacksonville police officers charged in the case.
Nelson Cuba, former head of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, and Robbie Freitas, the union's first vice president, are among the 17 defendants whose cases remain open.
They face dozens of charges, including racketeering, which alone could bring up to 30 years.
Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox said Thursday he has talked with Cuba and Freitas' attorneys about a deal that would result in a guilty plea.
"There have been conversations but we're not anywhere near a deal," Cox said. "That's still in the works."
The attorneys for Cuba and Freitas declined to comment.
During a status hearing in Seminole County, Cox said about half of the remaining defendants are expected to plead guilty in the case that began with 57 defendants.
"Some are pending pleas. Some are still trying to talk to us and work their case out," Cox said Thursday after a hearing to work out details of the trial.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester plans to try the remaining defendants together in a trial that is scheduled to start May 1 and could last up to six weeks.
When one defense attorney said he had a conflict with the May 1 date because of a scheduled murder trial, Lester told him to change the date. "It's a matter of economics for everyone," he said.
Defense attorney Mark NeJame objected to the trial starting in May because he hasn't been able to take a deposition from Allied's attorney, Kelly Mathis, who was found guilty by a jury on 103 counts in October.
He could spend the rest of his life in jail.
Mathis, a former Jacksonville Bar Association president, was found guilty of racketeering, and operating and owning slot machines.
NeJame said Mathis was refusing to be deposed due to fear of a pending federal case.
Mathis is the only defendant facing jail time. He returns to court in February for a pre-sentencing hearing.
Jerry Bass and Johnny Duncan, the current and former commanders of Allied Veterans, are among those who have pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and will avoid spending time in jail.
Dozens of defendants were arrested throughout Florida, as well as in South Carolina and Oklahoma in March.
Prosecutors say Allied Veterans ran a string of Internet
cafes, which they said helped fund veterans' charities, were really illegal gambling operations.
Officials said only 2 percent of the profits went to charities.
Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned the day she was questioned about her ties to Allied. A company she owned did consulting work for Allied.