Closing arguments to begin in Mathis trial

Jury could begin deliberations in fate of first to be tried in Allied Veterans case

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Kelly Mathis (left) talks with his attorney Mitch Stone in the courtroom during his trial at the Seminole County Courthouse.

SANFORD, Fla. - The prosecution has rested its case against a Jacksonville attorney accused of helping build up a network of storefront casinos under the guise of a veteran's charity.

Prosecutors decided not to call any rebuttal witnesses Tuesday and told Judge Kenneth Lester they were ready to proceed to closing arguments in lawyer Kelly Mathis' trial.

Lester released the jury for the remainder of the day so that prosecutors and defense attorneys could finish hashing out final jury instructions. Closing arguments will begin Wednesday morning.

Although they had initially planned to ask the judge to throw out the remaining 100 or so counts, defense attorneys declined to do so Tuesday. The judge had already dismissed about 50 money laundering counts last week.

Mathis has pleaded not guilty, claiming he merely gave legal advice to the Allied Veterans of the World affiliates.

The arrest of Mathis and 56 other defendants earlier this year caused the Florida Legislature to ban Internet cafes and led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Carroll had worked as a consultant for Allied Veterans. She wasn't charged with any crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors claim Mathis and his associates built up the network of casinos by claiming they were businesses where customers could buy Internet time, when in reality most customers played slot machine games on computers and didn't use the Internet. Even though the Internet cafes were being operated under the aegis of Allied Veterans of the World, very little of the $300 million the Allied Veteran affiliates earned actually went to veterans, prosecutors allege.

Mathis' attorneys say the network of Internet cafes was legal.

"We have proven over and over and over again ... that Mr. Mathis was a lawyer for an organization and he was practicing law," said Mitch Stone, a defense attorney for Mathis.

Prosecutors aren't commenting on the case for the duration of the trial.

Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys called as witnesses some of Mathis' key co-defendants who had reached deals with prosecutors: former Allied Veterans of the World leaders Johnny Duncan and Jerry Bass, as well as Chase Burns, who operated a company that made software for computers at the dozens of Allied Veterans centers around Florida.

Defense attorneys didn't want to jeopardize their plea agreements by calling them to testify, Stone said.

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