SANFORD, Fla. - Six jurors have started deliberating whether a Florida attorney is guilty of any crime for helping build what prosecutors say was a multimillion-dollar network of storefront casinos under the guise of a veterans' charity.
The jurors headed to the deliberation room shortly before lunchtime Thursday.
They must decide whether attorney Kelly Mathis is guilty of any of the 104 counts he faces, including racketeering, conspiracy, helping run a lottery and possessing slot machines
Mathis is the first of 57 defendants to go on trial in the Allied Veterans case that led to the resignation of Florida's lieutenant governor and a ban on all Internet cafes in the state earlier this year.
He says he did nothing wrong.
"This case is about gambling, but in reality it's about a complete disrespect, a disregard and manipulation of the law," Cox said during prosecutors' rebuttal closing arguments.
Several defendants have reached plea deals with prosecutors.
During closing arguments, his defense attorney said prosecutors had misinterpreted what was a gaming promotion and labeled it as gambling.
"They haven't proven it's gambling, number one, and they haven't proven that Mr. Mathis was a part of the organization, number two," defense attorney Mitch Stone said Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Allied Veterans ran nearly 50 Internet parlors that were actually a front for a $300 million gambling operation that gave very little to veterans' charities. Mathis and his associates built the operation by claiming the stores were businesses where customers could buy Internet time, when in reality most customers played slot machine games with names such as "Captain Cash," `'Lucky Shamrocks" and "Money Bunny," prosecutors said.
"None of these people wanted to come here for Internet time because they were selling games," Cox said. "The Internet time was a sham, a complete sham."
Mathis and his firm made $1.5 million a year doing work for Allied Veterans. Cox said that he should have known that Allied Veterans was breaking the law, and that the owners of the affiliates relied on his advice that what they were doing was legal.
"He's a lawyer," Cox said. "If anybody knew better about what the law said, it was him."