The Florida Attorney General has reportedly asked the southern state’s Supreme Court to assume jurisdiction over an illegal gambling case it brought against a Jacksonville-based attorney that was subsequently dismissed.
According to a report from the Florida Record, Pam Bondi wants the Florida Supreme Court to pass judgement on the 2013 conviction of Kelly Mathis after the Fifth District Court Of Appeal dismissed the original guilty verdict in October and ruled that the defendant should receive a new trial.
The newspaper reported that a jury had convicted Mathis of one count of racketeering along with 51 counts of conducting an illegal lottery and 51 counts of possessing an illegal slot machine. The trial followed raids on alleged illegal Internet cafes tied to the St Augustine-based Allied Veterans Of The World charity, which were said to have been run by the defendant.
The Florida Record reported that Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester later sentenced Mathis to six years in prison but the defendant was subsequently allowed to remain free on bail while the case was appealed.
“The Office Of Statewide Prosecution has filed a motion with the Florida Supreme Court asking them to accept jurisdiction over this matter and allow us to continue our appeal of the decision of the Fifth District Court Of Appeals,” Florida Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox told the Florida Record. “We will be filing a brief within the next two weeks regarding the discretionary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. As this litigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time.”
The Florida Times-Union newspaper reported that the three-judge Daytona Beach appeals court unanimously threw out the conviction and prison sentence of Mathis after finding that Lester had erred in not allowing him to introduce evidence that supported his assertion that the Internet cafes were legal and did not violate Florida law. Defense attorneys had originally planned to call multiple government officials including lawyers for the city of Jacksonville to support their contention that the gaming centers were permissible.
“Regarding the state’s notice seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the Florida Supreme Court, Mathis is hopeful that the Florida Supreme Court will decline to accept jurisdiction in this case,” Michael Ufferman, an attorney for Mathis, told the Florida Record.
Ufferman reportedly explained that the jurisdiction of the Florida Supreme Court is limited but one basis for which it can accept a case is if the decision of a lower court conflicts with one of its previous rulings or that from another district court of appeal.
“Mathis does not believe that the Fifth District Court Of Appeal’s decision in this case conflicts with any other case,” said Ufferman.
Lee Lockett, another attorney working on behalf of Mathis, told the Florida Journal that a new trial would afford the defendant an opportunity to fully present his defense to the charges that did not exist in the first prosecution.
“That’s because of the Fifth District Court [Of Appeals’] ruling that upon re-trial, Mathis will be permitted to offer witnesses and evidence that his legal opinion was based on sound legal research as well as several consultations with governmental officials state-wide who also agreed that the business model in place was in fact legal,” said Lockett.
Mathis was reportedly one of 57 arrested over charges that Allied Veterans Of The World was operating an illegal online gambling service but was the only person to be formally charged. The matter moreover led to the resignation of Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll although she was never charged with a crime and Mathis is currently suspended from practicing law and could be disbarred if convicted again.