The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request from Attorney General Pam Bondi's office to take up a case involving a Jacksonville attorney accused of racketeering and gambling-related crimes because of his links to the internet cafe industry.
The Supreme Court decision was a victory for Kelly Mathis, a former Jacksonville Bar Association president who was convicted in 2013 on 103 charges related to his work for the group Allied Veterans of the World, which was a major internet cafe operator.
The 5th District Court of Appeal in October reversed the convictions and said Mathis should receive a new trial.
That prompted Bondi's office to appeal to the Supreme Court.
As is common, justices did not explain the reasons Wednesday for declining to take up the case.
Mathis has always denied the accusations and his attorney, Mitch Stone, told News4Jax on Thursday that is client is now one step closer to proving he has done nothing wrong.
"Now we get a chance to go back to court, back to trial court, pick a new jury and retry the case using all of our evidence with the theories of defense that we are now permitted to use," Stone said.
Stone said he's relieved that he will finally be able to present his full defense. But unfortunately, he said, it's as if the case is staring over.
"Kelly Mathis now has the right to go back to trial on the charges, and that means that the trial court has to follow the decision of the 5th District Court of Appeal, which said that we should have been permitted to put all of our evidence in defense of Kelly Mathis," Stone said.
News4Jax was told the new trial will likely be in May. Mathis’ legal team is working to put together witnesses and evidence.
Internet cafes, which critics derided as "storefront casinos," offered electronic games that authorities said were akin to slot machines.
Allied Veterans of the World was shut down in 2013 after law-enforcement raids across the state and subsequent changes in state law.
A Seminole County jury found Mathis guilty of one count of racketeering, 51 counts of conducting an illegal lottery and 51 counts of possessing an illegal slot machine.
But the 5th District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, saying in part that a circuit judge improperly prevented Mathis from presenting evidence that could have showed he was doing legitimate legal work --- rather than aiding an illegal operation.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.