Attorney convicted in gambling ring gets new hope from Court of Appeals

A Jacksonville attorney convicted in a million dollar gambling ring hopes Florida state prosecutors choose to drop the 103 charges against him.
 
In 2013, a Seminole County jury found Kelly Mathis guilty of racketeering, conducting an illegal lottery, and slot machine possession.  
 
On Friday, the 5th District Court of Appeals threw out the lower court's conviction, pending a new trial.
 
"'Till my dying breath I will not take a plea," Mathis said. " "You can't simply arrest an attorney because six years after the fact you claim that his legal advice was simply wrong."
 
Mathis represented Allied Veterans of the World, a non-profit organization investigated for a $300 million conspiracy involving sweepstakes-style Internet gambling.  The investigation led to the resignation of Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll in 2013.
 
"Fifty-seven were arrested with me, fifty-six entered a plea deal," Mathis said. "I didn't, I refused to, it was not an option for me."
 
Mathis was sentenced to 6 years in jail, he served four days before being released on bail during his appeal. The Florida Bar suspended his license to practice law.
 
"It's been devastating financially and emotionally. I've been unable to find work for the most part," Mathis said. "I have four wonderful daughters and I couldn't bear the thought of missing six years of their life [if I went to jail]."
 
Today, he says he still wouldn't take a plea deal, even if it meant no time behind bars.  Very few other attorneys in the country have faced criminal charges for their legal advice, said Mathis.
 
The Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecutors can decide whether or not to try Mathis again. The appellate court ruled Mathis should not have been blocked from bringing evidence before the Seminole County jury supporting that his advice to Allied Veterans was legal.   
 
Mathis' attorney Mitch Stone said if there is a new trial, they plan to bring dozens of witnesses who agreed with Mathis legal opinions. 
 
"A jury would see that Kelly Mathis' opinion were legally sound," said Stone. "He's probably one of the most courageous people I know.  He could have taken a deal and walked away from it, but he knew it wasn't right to do that."
 
If charges are dropped, Mathis said he expects to be able to return to the practice of law, though he's not sure yet what that will look like. 
 
"I'm not out of the woods yet, I've had a big step but I think I see a clearing ahead," Mathis said. "I think things are going to work out."
 


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment