Just weeks after being found guilty on 103 counts of gambling-related charges, Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis is asking the court for a new trial. The state pegged Mathis as the mastermind of a $300 million gambling operation that prosecutors say used the Allied Veterans of the World nonprofit as a front for the ring, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Mathis and his defense lawyers in this Florida Felony Crimes Case said all along that Mathis was simply providing legal advice to the group. And, before the Allied Veterans case broke and 57 people including Mathis were arrested, the internet cafes were legal in the state of Florida.
Testimony regarding the legality of the machines is at the crux of the request for a new trial. During the trial in this Felony Crimes Case, Mathis was not allowed to present evidence showing that his legal advice was correct and that local governments had voted in laws to regulate these internet operations, the newspaper reported. Because that evidence could not be presented, Mathis argues the point could not be made clearly to the jury that the internet cafes were legal at the time. Mathis’ defense team planned to call state legislators, county sheriffs and other lawmakers to testify about laws regulating or banning the machines, but was not allowed to do so, the newspaper reported. The guilty verdicts were a surprise to many observers, especially given the relative slaps on the wrist other defendants received in the case. Half of the other 57 people charged had reached a plea deal – and none of those included prison time. Even former directors of Allied Veterans and the person who made the software for the machines were given deals without prison time, though they said if called to testify against Mathis they would simply say Mathis gave the group legal advice. The state’s gambling expert was barred from testifying at trial and the judge dropped dozens of charges during the trial, so many thought the case was looking favorable for Mathis.
In any Jacksonville Felony Case, a defendant is entitled to present evidence as an alternative to the state’s case. The defendant can call witnesses and bring in testimony, just like prosecutors can. And when that defense is restricted, that’s where appellate issues can arise. People are entitled to defend themselves in a criminal trial. That’s a hallmark of our judicial system. Would that testimony about the legality of the cafes have made a difference in the minds of this group of jurors in this Jacksonville Felony Case? No one knows. But if the higher court agrees they should have been able to weigh that evidence, another group of jurors may get to hear it in a second trial.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.