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Unusual high profile bond hearing in racketeering case

7:13 PM, Mar 13, 2013   |    comments
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SANFORD, Fla. -- Three high profile Jacksonville men arrested in the Allied Veterans of the World racketeering case are still in jail in Seminole County after an unusual bond hearing was stopped by a judge Wednesday afternoon. 

FOP President Nelson Cuba, Vice President Robbie Frietas and attorney Kelly Mathis were among 18 people charged that appeared before Judge James Declava for a first appearance hearing.

Attorneys argued for low bonds, or for allowing their clients to be released on their own recognizance. The attorneys argued they were not a flight risk and would voluntarily give up their passports. The attorneys also told the judge their clients have been operating internet cafes for five years, legally. 

While making arguments for a low bond, all of a sudden Judge John Galooza entered the room and said, "that would be it gentlemen," and that the hearing was over.

Galooza, who signed the arrest warrants, told the attorneys they could take it up with Judge Kenny Lester on Friday morning. 

The attorneys said they could not believe what was happening and continued to argue that they deserved a meaningful hearing.    

Judge Declava called a recess and returned five minutes later. He said that Judge Lester would set bonds in the morning, and the first appearance hearing would be continued Thursday at 1:30 p.m. so he could review the file and study the case attorneys had presented to him as arguments against holding their clients with no bond. 

Defense attorneys spoke to the media afterwards and said they had not seen anything like it in many years of practice.

"This is not fair, it is unconscionable," said Mitch Stone, attorney for Mathis. "We deserve a meaningful hearing and my client did not get that. He has been in jail 30 hours; there is no affidavit of charges. These men should be let out of jail. They are not a danger to the community or a flight risk." 

Zachary Stoumbos said he had not seen anything like it in 23 years of law practice. "We got nothing today, absolutely nothing."

First Coast News

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