A look back finds gambling case “oversold”

Prosecutors and law enforcement held a big press conference two years ago, announcing what appeared to be the beginning of a major statewide gambling bust – with dozens arrested and more supposedly to follow.  As it turned out, those 57 arrests were the only arrests ever made and only one person was convicted and sentenced to time behind bars, according to analysis by the Florida Times-Union. In fact, only one other person was sentenced to house arrest and the other 55 cut deals with prosecutors that included no jail time at all, the newspaper reported. Many of those 55 had their charges dropped outright, but not before they were paraded in front of the cameras in what prosecutors claimed was a $300 million racketeering and money laundering case.

Many of the key people arrested in the case were from Jacksonville, including the attorney for the alleged gambling centers and police union officials who had a role in some of the centers. The state alleged that the gaming centers were illegal gambling, but accepted plea deals to probation in many of the cases.  This case is a prime example of why there is a balance in the judicial system and people are innocent until proven guilty. At the outset, the public was led to believe that more than four dozen people were involved in this elaborate scheme to rip off millions of dollars. But as the cases came together, the holes must have been apparent to prosecutors as offers for probation were being made – including some that included dropping many of the charges.

The key in these Florida Felony Cases was that people were offered these deals without having to agree to testify against the co-defendants in the case. Typically, how Jacksonville Felony Cases with multiple defendants work is, prosecutors start offering deals to people charged with the less serious crimes – on the condition they testify against some of the ringleaders. This is a common tactic in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, where the state looks to solidify its charges against the drug supplier by flipping people buying drugs or some of the lower-level dealers.  But that didn’t happen in this Florida Felony Crimes Case. Only one case went to trial, that of the attorney for the nonprofit running the internet cafes who was accused of being the mastermind of the gambling operations. He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to six years in prison, but is out of custody while the case is being appealed.  Not all cases are as airtight as police present them to be when they are announced. The state has the burden of proving all criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt, and not all cases that are charged meet that standard.
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 Felony Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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