The Allied Veterans’ Florida gambling racketeering case began last March. It started when “Investigators raided Internet casino sites across the state…. seizing more than $100 million in assets and arresting 57 people on charges ranging from racketeering to money laundering. The state maintains the group was calling itself a charity but keeping 98 percent of profits for itself.” (Action News Jax)
I posted an article on Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyers website titled Jacksonville Attorneys Request for Separate Trial Denied. It explained how Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester denied Kelly Mathis’ motion for a separate trial from his co-defendants in the Allied Veterans trial. Kelly Mathis is an attorney in Jacksonville FL. He is accused of being the mastermind behind the scandal. Many of his co-defendants have waived their rights to a speedy trial, but he has not. A defendant in a criminal case has a right to a speedy trial under Rule 3.191 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. With a felony case, the accused has a right to trial within 175 days of his arrest. It does not matter whether or not he is in jail. Mathis’ attorney requested a separate jury trial, because he did not want the co-defendants pointing fingers at Mathis. Judge Lester denied the motion explaining that the jury would make the decision as to which co-defendant was being truthful.
Yesterday, “several leaders of an alleged $300 million gambling racketeering operation with Allied Veterans of the World appeared in court.” Johnny Duncan is one of those individuals. He is the organization’s former national commander. He “pleaded no contest to one count of money laundering and four counts of maintaining an illegal lottery. Each charge is considered a third-degree felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison. As part of the plea, Duncan will receive probation and no jail time…. Sentencing is set for Nov. 25 at 8:30 a.m.” It appears that Jerry Bass and Mike Hessong may also be accepting plea deals. The judge “granted a delay to enter pleas. Both were given until Aug. 23 at 9:30 a.m. to reach a decision.”
It is not unusual for co-defendants to negotiate a deal with the state attorneys office. This is one of the reasons that co-defendants should have separate criminal lawyers in Florida. There is a serious conflict of interest when one co-defendant wants to take a plea deal and the other maintains his innocence and wants a jury trial. The state attorney will want the co-defendant that is taking the deal to testify against the co-defendant at trial. Mathis’ co-defendants may be testifying against him at trial, hence the plea agreements. We will know soon enough as the trial will likely occur next month.