SANFORD, Fla. (AP) - An attorney convicted of leading a $300 million gambling ring that used a veterans charity as a front was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison.
Kelly Mathis of Jacksonville learned his sentence after a Florida judge listened to character witnesses describe the lawyer as a man of integrity who loved his family. Mathis' attorneys argued that he should be spared prison given he only provided legal advice to Allied Veterans of America.
But Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox said Mathis deserved prison for engaging in deception. Cox said Mathis was responsible for marrying the gambling operation with the veterans charity.
Mathis was convicted last year of 103 counts of racketeering, possessing slot machines and other charges. He will remain free on bond pending appeals.
Mathis was the first of 57 defendants to go to trial in a case that led to last year's resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll who had worked as a consultant for the Allied Veterans charity. She wasn't charged with any crime. The arrests also led the Florida Legislature to ban Internet cafes in the state.
Prosecutors said Mathis and his associates 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. Even though the Internet cafes were being operated under the aegis of Allied Veterans of the World, very little of the $300 million the businesses earned actually went to veterans, prosecutors said.
After the hearing, Mathis said he was confident his convictions would be overturned on appeal, a process which could take a year.
He said the sentencing will send a chilling effect in the legal community.
"A lawyer will be afraid to give any advice at all if this is allowed to stand," he said
Cox said it gave him no pleasure to have another attorney given a prison sentence.
"We just sentenced a lawyer to prison, that doesn't make me proud," Cox said. "I'm not happy we needed to do this."
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