Ousted Tennessee senator sentenced to probation for fraud

Mar 18, 2022, 7:23 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2022, 1:09 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A former Tennessee state senator expelled from office after a conviction for using federal grant money on wedding expenses instead of the nursing school she operates was sentenced Friday to a year of probation but no prison time.

Katrina Robinson had faced four to 10 months in prison under sentencing guidelines after she was found guilty in September of two counts of wire fraud in Memphis federal court. But U.S. District Judge Sheryl H. Lipman departed from the guidelines at sentencing, saying Robinson had already suffered greatly and the Memphis community would gain no benefit from prison time for the nursing school administrator, community leader and mother of two.

Robinson, a Democrat, was elected to represent a Memphis district in the state Senate in 2018. She was removed from office last month by the Republican-led Senate in a vote along party lines.

The criminal case against Robinson involved federal grant money for a school for health care workers she started running before she was elected to public office.

In July 2020, prosecutors accused Robinson of paying personal expenses from more than $600,000 in federal grant money awarded to The Healthcare Institute, which trains nurses and focuses on helping low-income minority students. She was ultimately convicted of only two of 20 counts, involving about $3,400 in wedding expenses in 2016.

Before the 27-5 vote to remove her from the Senate, Robinson, who is Black, argued that she had been unfairly judged by the white-majority body. She called it a “procedural lynching,” prompting cheers of support that the Republican speaker gaveled down. Some of her supporters in the gallery were in tears and others stood in solidarity.

It was the first time the chamber had removed a senator since at least the Civil War.

On Friday, prosecutor Christopher Cotten asked the judge to sentence Robinson to 10 months in prison, saying she had shown “abject defiance of accepting any responsibility for her actions” and had unfairly blamed racism for the charges.

During the sentencing hearing, Robinson told the judge that she understood the importance of her case and acknowledged that she did not keep a “tight eye on things.”

Lipman, the judge, said she read 57 letters of support for Robinson. Former students and current employees described her as a great mother, nurturing educator, inspiring community leader and dedicated nurse. Robinson traveled outside Tennessee during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic to help care for sick patients in hospitals.

However, Lipman also scolded Robinson for blaming the charges on “hot button issues” such as race, although the judge did acknowledge past cases of racial injustice in the court system. Lipman criticized Robinson’s sloppy record keeping and added that Robinson failed to respect the federal grant funded by taxpayers by not giving it proper attention.

The judge gave Robinson some advice.

“Someone who tries to do everything needs to edit, and needs to edit desperately,” Lipman said.

Lipman also ruled Friday that Robinson had committed perjury during her trial when she defended an email that said money she used on her wedding was for a community patient education event and should be covered by grant money.

After the hearing, Robinson told reporters that she felt probation was appropriate and she plans to continue working in the community.

“Most of the stuff that I talked about as it relates to race has to do with my Senate expulsion first of all, and just the overall pattern since the beginning of times when Black elected officials were able to serve — not necessarily that I do not accept responsibility for this case,” Robinson said.

While she gets to avoid prison, Robinson has already paid a steep price, both to her reputation and her finances, said her lawyer, Lawrence Laurenzi. Robinson has struggled in securing a checking account, her retirement account has been seized by the federal government, and she could lose her nursing license, the lawyer said.

Laurenzi said he plans to appeal the conviction.

After Robinson’s expulsion from the Senate, the Shelby County Commission chose another Black woman, Democratic state Rep. London Lamar, to replace her. Commissioners will choose Lamar’s replacement in the state House.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Japan games maker Nintendo’s profit slips amid chips crunch

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese video game maker Nintendo recorded a slight drop in in profit in April to December as it maintained strong sales of its Switch console games. Nintendo Co.’s net profit in the first nine months of the fiscal year through March was 346 billion yen ($2.6 billion), down 5.8% from 367 billion […]
2 hours ago
A computer screen displays a notice blocking the Wikipedia website through an online news site in I...
Associated Press

Wikipedia again up and running as Pakistan lifts ban on site

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan lifted its ban on Wikipedia services before dawn Tuesday, after the country’s media regulator blocked the site last week for not removing purportedly blasphemous content, claiming it hurts the sentiments of Muslims. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the unblocking late on Monday, according to a government statement. The site was blocked […]
2 hours ago
A woman walks in front of SoftBank store in Ginza shopping district in Tokyo, Jan. 20, 2020. Japane...
Associated Press

Japan’s SoftBank logs $5.9B loss as tech investments tumble

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese investor SoftBank Group reported Tuesday that it sank into a deep loss for the October-December quarter, slammed by the global plunge in technology shares. SoftBank Group Corp. racked up a 783 billion yen ($5.9 billion) loss for the fiscal third quarter, a reversal from the 29 billion yen profit recorded the […]
2 hours ago
FILE - A logo of BP is seen at a gas station in London, on Nov. 1, 2022. British energy company BP ...
Associated Press

UK energy company BP’s profits double to $27.7 billion

LONDON (AP) — British energy firm BP reported record annual earnings on Tuesday, fueling demands that the U.K. government boost taxes for companies benefiting from the high price of oil and natural gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. London-based BP said underlying replacement cost profit, which excludes one-time items and fluctuations in the value of […]
2 hours ago
FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Se...
Associated Press

Boeing plans to cut about 2,000 finance and HR jobs in 2023

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing plans to make staffing cuts in the aerospace company’s finance and human resources departments in 2023, with a loss of around 2,000 jobs, the company said. “We expect about 2,000 reductions primarily in Finance and HR through a combination of attrition and layoffs,” Boeing said in a statement Monday. “While no […]
1 day ago
A currency trader watches monitors near the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (...
Associated Press

Global stocks mixed after Wall St sinks on rate fears

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets were mixed Tuesday as traders looked ahead to a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for clues to interest rate plans after Japanese wages rose and Australia’s central bank hiked its key rate again. London and Shanghai gained. Frankfurt, Tokyo and Wall Street futures declined. Oil prices rose. […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Ousted Tennessee senator sentenced to probation for fraud