conviction

Feds appeal judge’s decision to throw out 2 of 4 charges in Robinson fraud conviction

Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) speaks to reporters after the Senate voted to oust her from the chamber. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Federal prosecutors are appealing a judge’s decision to undo the jury verdict on two of four wire fraud charges former state Sen. Katrina Robinson was convicted of. The Memphis Democrat was ousted from the Senate last week on a 27-5 vote.

While the appeal works its way to the 6th Circuit, the government is also calling for the Memphis Democrat to be sentenced to up 2 1/2 years in prison and urging U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman against agreeing to a lighter sentence because of “the truly extraordinary breadth and scope of [Robinson’s] refusal to accept responsibility.”

“She has not simply declined to admit guilt; she has embarked on an extended campaign — before, during, and after trial; in front of the jury and in frequent statements to the media — to paint herself as the victim,” U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy Jr. wrote in a motion filed Friday. “A consistent and recurring theme of this campaign is that the consequences she is facing are the result not of her own actions but of racial animus on the part of anyone who dares call her to account.”

The prosecutor cites news accounts in the Tennessee Lookout and Commercial Appeal about the Senate ouster, including Robinson’s statement that she was being subjected to a “procedural lynching.”

“This defiant refusal to accept responsibility and to instead cast herself as the wronged party in this case should be reflected in the sentence,” Murphy wrote.

Robinson is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3, and her legal team argued the Senate ouster was premature until her case reaches its official conclusion on that date.

“At this time we are considering every option we have to try to get those last two counts removed or dismissed,” Robinson attorney Larry Laurenzi told the chamber on Wednesday. “And we will continue doing that up until March 3. Has anything been filed today? No. Can I tell you that nothing is going to be filed next week? I can’t tell you that.”

Democratic Sen. Robinson convicted in federal fraud case

A federal jury has found Democratic state Sen. Katrina Robinson of Memphis guilty of four counts of wire fraud.

Katrina Robinson (Image credit: Tennessee General Assemlby)

Robinson’s prospects at trial had been looking up after the judge last week granted a defense motion to acquit her of 15 of the 20 counts she had been charged with. But the trial proceeded this week on the remainder of the case and the freshman senator was convicted after the jury of eight women and four men deliberated Thursday for five hours.

The dismissed counts include allegations Robinson had illegally spent grant money on her 2018 Senate campaign, legal fees for her divorce, and contributions to her retirement account.

What remained of the more than $600,000 prosecutors had alleged Robinson misspent were two counts of wire fraud related to $2,326 she paid an artist through a booking agent and $1,158 that went to a wedding makeup artist. Also surviving the judge’s ruling were three counts of wire fraud alleging Robinson made fraudulent representations in annual performance reports from 2017 through 2019. The jury acquitted Robinson of any wrongdoing on her 2018 report.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) called on Robinson to resign.

“While Senator Robinson’s convictions did not stem from actions taken while in office, they are nevertheless very serious,” McNally said in a statement. “As public servants, we are held to a higher standard. My personal opinion is that it would be in the best interest of the state and her constituents for Senator Robinson to step down at this time.”

Robinson faced up to 20 years in prison for the full set of wire fraud charges before she was acquitted of most of them. Sentencing is scheduled for January.