ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida's statewide prosecutor told a jury Thursday that a Jacksonville lawyer "gamed" the legal system by helping create a network of gambling centers throughout Florida, but the defense said Kelly Mathis did nothing more than provide legal advice.
Mathis 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, said statewide prosecutor Nicholas Cox during opening statements in Mathis' criminal trial.
Very little of the $300 million that the Allied Veterans affiliates earned from the Internet cafes went to veterans, Cox said.
"This is about Kelly Mathis gaming the system," Cox said. "He's a lawyer and he gamed the legal system."
Mathis is pleading not guilty to more than 150 charges, including possession of slot machines, keeping gambling houses and other charges. He claims he only gave legal advice and did nothing wrong. Mathis and other lawyers at his law firm reached the same conclusions as officials in the Department of Agriculture as to the legality of the Internet cafes, said his attorney Mitchell Stone.
"Everything they did is consistent with legal work," Stone told jurors during opening statements. "It doesn't make him anything other than a lawyer hired to do the job."
The arrest of Mathis and 56 other people in March prompted the Florida Legislature to ban the storefront Internet cafes and led to the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had worked as a consultant for Allied Veterans. She has denied wrongdoing and wasn't charged.
The trial could last up to six weeks.