Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supreme Court to Weigh Mathis Conviction Ruling; Appellate Court Ordered New Trial; Some Want Conviction Reinstated

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supreme Court to Weigh Mathis Conviction Ruling; Appellate Court Ordered New Trial; Some Want Conviction Reinstated

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

A Tuesday court filing for the Jacksonville attorney previously convicted in the Allied Veterans of the World scandal calls for the Florida Supreme Court to stand by an appellate ruling that throws out his racketeering conviction.

The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach ruled in October that Kelly Mathis should receive a new trial after being convicted on 103 charges stemming from his work for Allied Veterans, which operated dozens of internet cafes that were raided and shut down in 2013 because of illegal gambling.

Attorneys in the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi are asking the state Supreme Court to reinstate Mathis' conviction and six-year prison sentence, arguing that the appellate ruling conflicts with previous court decisions.

Mathis' lawyers disagreed in Tuesday's filing and said the ruling should be upheld.

On Oct. 11, 2013, the jury found Mathis - the St. Augustine-based nonprofit's lawyer - guilty on one count of racketeering, 51 counts of conducting an illegal lottery and 51 counts of possessing an illegal slot machine. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester sentenced him to six years in prison but allowed him to remain free on bail while the case was appealed.

Lawyers for Mathis argued that Lester refused to allow them to introduce evidence backing their client's opinion that the centers were legal and didn't violate Florida law. A three-judge appellate panel unanimously agreed that he should have been allowed to present the evidence.

Defense attorneys originally planned to call multiple government officials, including lawyers for the city of Jacksonville, to support their contention that the gaming centers were legal, but Lester disallowed that.

With the appellate ruling saying prosecutors had to prove that Mathis had "specific intent" to commit an illegal act, Bondi's office says previous court rulings said prosecutors didn't have to prove that. …

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