JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the men accused of masterminding a veterans charity scandal is breaking his silence.
Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis is accused of running a ring of Internet cafes designed to help raise money for veterans. Instead, prosecutors said the Internet cafes were nothing more than illegal gambling houses, and that he and several other high-profile defendants were putting the majority of the money made in their pockets.
Mathis and his defense team held a news conference Thursday to clear up a few things.
First, they wanted to talk about a plea deal made by another defendant, Johnny Duncan.
Duncan, a former Allied Vets leader, entered a no-contest plea this week; a deal, Mathis' attorneys said, Duncan struck with the state in exchange for dropping charges against four of his family members.
Mathis' attorney, Mitch Stone, said that deal in no way implies his client is guilty.
He said, "Johnny Duncan has maintained his innocence from day one and continues to do so. And I fully anticipate that Johnny Duncan, if he takes the stand, which we expect him to do, will absolutely 100 percent if he tells the truth exonerate Kelly Mathis."
The state claims Allied Veterans of the World donated only 2 percent of the $300 million it made. Action News asked Mathis specifically about those allegations. He said those numbers are wrong.
"Interestingly, with all of the hoopla they made about that issue, and that grandstanding about that issue, there is not a single criminal charge against any defendant relating to that," said Mathis. "Not a single criminal charge. It was designed to create a media circus."
Mathis said his life has drastically changed since his March arrest. His once-thriving office on the Southbank was empty when Action News was there Thursday.
His attorneys have made a few requests. One is for a dismissal of the charges. If that doesn't happen, they want a change of venue. They're asking the trial be moved from Seminole County to Duval County, mainly because the bulk of the witnesses expected to testify live in Jacksonville.
There hasn't been a decision on that yet.
A trial date has been set for Sept. 16.