SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge on Tuesday threw out about a third of the more than 150 charges against a Jacksonville attorney accused of using a veterans group as a front for a $300 million gambling operation.
Judge Kenneth Lester tossed out more than 50 money laundering charges against Kelly Mathis. A jury will still decide whether he is guilty of more than 100 other charges of racketeering, running a lottery and possessing slot machines related to Allied Veterans of the World.
"If you shoot me with 103 bullets versus 156, 103 are still going to kill me," Mathis said after Tuesday's hearing. "I didn't do anything wrong. We're going to continue to fight these charges."
Prosecutors refused to comment on the judge's ruling.
Prosecutors alleged Mathis helped build 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. They said veterans received very little of the money generated from the Internet cafes.
On Tuesday, prosecutor April Acharekar told the judge that jurors should be given the chance to decide if Mathis committed any crimes.
"He was certainly in control of some aspects of the organization," Acharekar said.
But defense attorneys say Mathis only provided legal advice to Allied Veterans and did nothing wrong. They say Mathis never controlled, owned or managed any of the dozens of Allied Veterans Internet cafes in Florida. Even if he did, the centers were offering sweepstakes, not gambling, the defense attorneys said.
"He offered legal analysis, and the client could do what he wanted to do," said defense attorney Mitch Stone.
The arrest of Mathis and 56 other people in March prompted the Florida Legislature to ban 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.
Defense attorneys' request to dismiss the charges came a day after prosecutors rested their case. Jurors were given Tuesday off as attorneys argued on the motion to dismiss. They return to court on Wednesday when Mathis' defense attorneys begin presenting their case.
The prosecution rested Monday without calling 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.
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