SANFORD, Fla. - The jury for the illegal gambling and racketeering trial of Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis was seated Wednesday and opening statements will begin Thursday morning
Mathis is accused of dozens of felonies as the attorney of record for Allied Veterans of the World, an Internet cafe operator.
Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester took the unusual step of banning cameras from jury selection.
Judge Lester first asked both groups of attorneys if they wanted cameras in the room, then disallowed them, saying he did not want potential jurors to be intimidated by the cameras.
Mathis listened patiently as more than 100 jurors were called for duty. When asked if a 4- to 6-week trial would be considered too much of a hardship for them, almost every potential juror raised their hand and said, "Yes."
The judge then whittled down the list by separating what he and the attorneys considered legitimate hardships. Those that made the cut were brought back Tuesday for more in depth questions, and on Wednesday, six were selected to hear the case.
Mathis is the only one of the top members of Allied Veterans not to take a plea deal. He has steadfastly claimed his innocence and told the court he was simply providing services as a lawyer. Mathis has said repeatedly he would not take a plea under any circumstance.
Prosecutors say Mathis was the mastermind of a charity scheme to raise money through Internet cafes that allowed people to gamble on computers. Customers who bought prepaid cards, supposedly to browse the Internet, could play computer games such as "Captain Cash" and "Lucky Shamrocks." Winners would get more money on their prepaid card, which could be used to play more games or could be turned in for cash.
Prosecutors say Allied Veterans spent about 2 percent of its proceeds on charitable works, and Mathis earned about $6 million for his role.
Mathis claims the computer games were legal sweepstakes that are no different than a McDonald's scratch-off ticket. His lawyer, Mitch Stone, says Mathis is being prosecuted for giving legal advice. The charges against Mathis include racketeering and money laundering.
Fifty-seven people were arrested in the Allied Veterans operation. Prosecutors have dropped charges against 15 people and reached plea deals with seven others, including three once described as among the leaders of the operation.
Stone said prosecutors were offering plea deals without jail time, an indication that their case is weak.
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