JACKSONVILLE — The state dismissed its case against the Jacksonville lawyer convicted on 103 charges in the $300 million illegal gambling ring, court documents show.
Kelly Mathis, the attorney for Allied Veterans of the World, was sentenced to six years by a Seminole County jury in 2013. His conviction was overturned by an appeals court ruling and the Supreme Court denied the Attorney General’s (AG’s) petition to review the case. He served four days in prison before being released upon appeal. On Wednesday, all charges were dropped by Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox.
“Nick Cox weighed all the facts and made an informed decision,” Mitch Stone of Stone Lockett, a Jacksonville law firm, told the Florida Record. “He deserves a lot of credit for his fortitude in making the right call.”
Mathis, a former Jacksonville Bar Association president, had his license to practice law suspended after charges including racketeering were levied against him. The state alleged he was involved in the organization’s sweepstakes-style internet gambling in 50 locations statewide.
“His role as a lawyer shouldn’t have been on trial,” Stone, who represents Mathis, said. “He never invested in the business, wasn’t declared an officer, employee or board member. Mathis only provided legal representation to the business much like I do with my clients. We were denied the ability to defend on the basis that his legal opinion was legitimate.”
Critics of the scandal say it was a flawed case from the start and prosecutors allegedly said in hindsight there were missteps along the way. Mathis claimed that former Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger had a vendetta against him because he successfully defended another client in an illegal gambling case.
“But Mathis didn’t come up with an original legal analysis and opinion,” Stone said. “[Florida law] was proposed and supported by other lawyers and lobbyists who predated Mathis’s involvement in the entire industry. He advised his client to follow the rules. In no event should he had been singled out as part of these activities.”
Though 57 people were arrested, only Mathis went to trial because, in part, the state claimed his emails evidenced illegal activities. They further alleged that he made $6 million in legal fees over five years of representing Allied.
“We’re in the process of requesting his license to practice law be reinstated,” Stone said. “We expect that to happen as early as this week. He’s been exonerated and so we’re righting the ship.”
During the four-year ordeal, Stone said Mathis lost everything including his marriage, a 25-year career and a thriving law firm.
“He had an amazing amount of courage and strength during this ordeal,” Stone said. “I hope people who believed in him—former clients who potentially can be his clients again—would realize that he hasn’t lost a step, he’s still the same exceptional lawyer he was before.”
The statewide prosecutor’s office released a statement today regarding the case.
"After much consideration, I decided to dismiss pending charges against Kelly Mathis," Cox said. "Since this case started, the gaming laws have changed and the Allied Veterans Corporation has been put out of business. The Office of Statewide Prosecution's current priorities are fighting synthetic drugs, illegal opioids, human trafficking and gang violence. I feel that we should focus our resources on these priorities for the best interest in the state of Florida."