Judge won't dismiss charges for attorney in Internet cafe gambling scandal

By Tony Pipitone, Investigative Reporter, tpipitone@clickorlando.com
Published On: Sep 11 2013 03:20:26 PM EDT
SANFORD, Fla. -

A judge this week refused to dismiss criminal charges against the attorney for a veterans group accused of running a $300 million illegal gambling operation at dozens of Internet cafes around Florida.

Kelly Mathis, of Jacksonville, is set to go on trial Monday in Sanford.

Mathis claimed in motions to dismiss that he was merely acting as a lawyer for Allied Veterans of the World, and therefore could not be held criminally liable for the actions of the group.

But Seminole Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester rejected that argument after the statewide prosecutor alleged Mathis crossed the line from counselor to criminal.

The ruling does not mean Lester has ruled Mathis violated the law -- only that the state has alleged sufficient facts for the allegations to go to trial. Another motion to dismiss remains under consideration.

Lester also denied motions: to dismiss based on alleged conflicts of interest and bias among prosecutors and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office counsel; and to exclude the Sheriff's counsel, April Kirsheman, the statewide prosecutor and the attorney general from the proceedings.

The judge gave no reasons for his ruling, other than to cite the names of other cases that would support his findings.

As both sides prepare for next week's trial, Lester issued other rulings laying out the ground rules for what can and cannot be mentioned in front of the jury.

Among those rulings:

The resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who resigned after being questioned about paid work she did for the veterans group, cannot be mentioned.

Nor can either side reference county and local ordinances that sought to allow the games to be played legally.

The state cannot call the group a "charity," but can reference its claims of charitable giving.

The state can present testimony of the intent of patrons -- that is, they played in hopes of winning money -- but the judge could exclude such testimony during trial if it became cumulative or irrelevant.

The defense can argue its interpretations of the law and that they do not believe the elements of the crime were met.

Finally, the defense cannot elicit testimony regarding advice Mathis or others received from counsel.

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