Kelly Mathis: I promised I would fight Allied Veterans charges to very end
State won't retry Jacksonville lawyer in internet cafe gambling case
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man the state once called a mastermind of a $300 million gambling ring said Thursday that he's ready to move on after prosecutors said this week they will not retry him on racketeering charges.
Kelly Mathis, once one of Jacksonville's highest-profile attorneys, was one of 57 people arrested four years ago in a crackdown on Internet cafés across the state.
He was the only one to go to trial in the 2013 Allied Veterans of the World case, but his conviction was overturned last year.
Mathis spoke about the four-year ordeal Thursday with his attorney, Mitch Stone, in Jacksonville Beach.
“I remember walking out of the Seminole County Jail (four years ago) feeling frustrated, outraged, and I promised you then that I would fight until I was proven innocent. I would fight to the very end. And I would continue fighting until my innocence was established,” Mathis said. “I didn't think it would take four years to do so. Sometimes, standing up for what you believe in is harder than you think. The road is more challenging than you anticipate.”
Mathis said he was pleased with the final outcome, which his attorney announced this week.
The 5th District Court of Appeal previously denied a request by the State Attorney General's Office for a rehearing on the court's decision to throw out the 103 gambling-related convictions against Mathis and to order a retrial.
The Attorney General's Office also asked the Florida Supreme Court to reinstate the conviction, but it refused.
Mathis contended throughout the case he was not involved in the operation of the business. He only served as the lawyer for Allied Veterans.
Mathis, whose law license was temporarily suspended, said he's ready to get back to work. He said he still doesn't know why he and his clients were targeted by prosecutors four years ago.
“I have some suspicions and some thoughts about it,” Mathis said. “For some reason, my clients were singled out. Of all of the Internet cafés that were operated all over the state of Florida, my client was the only one that was charged and the only one investigated.”
Stone said they were able to show that Mathis wasn't the mastermind the state claimed he was and that the money Mathis' client raised was actually used for charity.
“What I will say is this case started based on a perception that turned out to be incorrect,” Stone said.
The statewide case prompted changes in Florida law regulating internet gaming and the resignation of Gov. Rick Scott's first lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, who appeared in a commercial promoting Allied Veterans of the World prior to her election to the post.
Despite the changes, there are still Internet cafés operating in Jacksonville and across the state, which makes Mathis wonder.
“It's frustrating,” he said. “It makes me wonder exactly what the objective was at the beginning and why in four years they haven't done anything about that. For some reason, my clients and I were singled out.”
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