katrina robinson

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.”

New TNJ alert: What does a stationary bike maker have to do with the Tennessee economy?

Lawmakers attend Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The new print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out in the world. Here’s what’s in it:

— Are Peloton’s struggles a cautionary tale for the state economy? Lee delivers annual budget address, lawmakers fret about a future economic downturn.

— Removed without delay: Convicted Sen. Katrina Robinson calls ouster from chamber a “procedural lynching.”

— Campaign finance update: Lee raises big money for re-election bid, House GOP haul is down from two years ago, and Casada travels to Santa Fe.

Also: Registry to hold special meeting to take up subpoenas on mystery PAC on March 7, McNally gives Lamberth an inadvertent “promotion,” and the Senate Finance chairman bats down ballpark funding proposal by his hometown mayor.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

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Senate votes to oust Memphis Democrat Katrina Robinson from chamber (UPDATED)

Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) addresses colleagues during a floor session to decide whether to oust her from the chamber on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Senate voted 27-5 to oust Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) from the chamber for federal wire fraud charges related to misspending grant money intended for her nursing schools and her agreement to pretrial diversion on another case.

Robinson called the case a “procedural lynching.”

The chamber earlier voted 16-16 on a motion to delay consideration of the ouster proceedings until after Robinson is sentenced in March, meaning the motion failed. Democratic Sen. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville was missing due to a COVID-19 infection, otherwise the motion might have prevailed.

Several Republicans said later they had been confused about whether the vote was to end debate or delay consideration.

Here is an image gallery of proceedings on Tuesday.

Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), right, attends a floor session in which colleagues were to decide whether to oust her from the chamber on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Democrat state House members watch the Senate discussion of a proposal to oust Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis). From the top are Reps. Torrey Harris of Memphis, Vincent Dixie of Nashville, Sam McKenzie of Knoxville, and Larry Miller of Memphis. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) addresses colleagues during a floor session to decide whether to oust her from the chamber as Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), top, watches on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
A supporter of Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) holds up a sign in the gallery while members considered an ouster proposal in Nashville on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), center, addresses colleagues during a floor session to decide whether to oust her from the chamber on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Sen. Katrina Robinson’s attorney, Larry Laurenzi, addresses the Senate chamber during a floor session to decide whether to oust his client from the chamber on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) speaks to reporters after the Senate voted to oust her from the chamber on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Democratic Party urges Senate not to oust Robinson

State Sen. Katrina Robinson confers with Rep. G.A. Hardaway (both D-Memphis) after the Sente Ethics Committee recommended Robinson’s expulsion on Jan. 20, 20222. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state Democratic Party is urging Republicans not to go through with ousting Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) from the chamber on Wednesday.

A jury has found Robinson guilty on two counts of wire fraud, but the senator has yet to be sentenced in federal court. Robinson also struck a deal for pretrial diversion in a separate case alleging she defrauded to pre-trial diversion on separate case in which the government alleged she conspired to cheat a man out of $14,470 by falsely claiming the money was needed to cover tuition for a student at her nursing school.

Here’s the release from the Tennessee Democratic Party:

Tomorrow, the full Tennessee State Senate will join a premature and ill-advised effort by a select few to remove duly elected State Senator Katrina Robinson from her seat in the Tennessee State Legislature.

Once again, we see Republicans rush to judgment on their Democratic colleague in a blatant attempt to ruin her career in the name of ethics. The ethical thing for the State Senate to do is provide her with the same due diligence that it has provided her male colleagues in the past. With impending court proceedings, she deserves the right to continue serving until this legal matter has reached its final outcome. 

This action sends a message to women seeking to serve, especially those of color, that State Legislators can deny you a fair process but, most importantly, show complete disregard to due process in hopes of scoring political points. We are encouraging State Senators to give Senator Robinson a fair opportunity and to not uphold the recommendation for expulsion. 

A preemptive decision to remove her from the Senate prior to the final outcome of her ongoing legal matter that has continuously evolved in a way that has favored her, would be a mistake and would set the wrong precedent for the future. 

New TNJ alert: 5th District update, logistics of Robinson proceedings, final state House maps

Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) presides over an Ethics Committee meeting about Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), in Nashville on Jan. 20, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

— Morgan who? Trump makes surprise 5th District endorsement.

— Ouster watch: Senate to weigh whether to expel Robinson after Wednesday debate.

— Redistricting roundup: 2 steps forward, 1 step back: House GOP undoes some incumbent pairings.

Also: Advocates of right-to-work amendment get favorable internal poll results, Janice Bowling gets COVID-19, and Terri Lynn Weaver gets biblical about Nashville’s raucous tourist district.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

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Senate to take up Robinson ethics case, potential ouster on Feb. 2

State Sen. Katrina Robinson confers with Rep. G.A. Hardaway (both D-Memphis) after the Sente Ethics Committee recommended Robinson’s expulsion on Jan. 20, 20222. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) says the full chamber will take up the ethics case against Sen. Katrina Robinson on Feb. 2. The Senate Ethics Committee last week recommended the Memphis Democrat’s expulsion over federal fraud charges related to her nursing school.

Robinson is awaiting sentencing after a jury found her guilty of two charges of misspending federal grant money intended for the school. She has also agreed to pre-trial diversion on separate case in which the government alleged she and two codefendants conspired to cheat a man out of $14,470 by falsely claiming the money was needed to cover tuition for a student at her school.

McNally has called on Robinson to resign before the matter comes before the full Senate. Democrats called the move premature because Robinson hasn’t been sentenced yet.

Here is the Senate Ethics Committee’s report to the chamber:

The Senate Ethics Committee held a public meeting on January 20, 2021 after the Committee voted 4-0 in a private hearing on January 10, 2021 that probable cause existed that Senator Katrina Robinson violated the law or the Senate Code of Ethics. The committee made this determination based on Senator Robinson’s actions that resulted in a jury conviction in federal court on September 30, 2021 for wire fraud (counts 11 and 12 of her indictment) and for actions which led to a pretrial diversion agreement with the United States that was filed with the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on December 17, 2021.

Complaint 1: A jury conviction in federal court on September 30, 2021 for wire fraud (counts 11 and 12 of her indictment); and

Complaint 2: A pretrial diversion agreement with the United States that was filed with the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on December 17,2021.

The following public court documents were submitted to the committee as exhibits and are attached to this report:

Exhibit 1: The Superseding Indictment from January 14, 2021 in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Criminal No. 2:20-cr-20148-SHL

Exhibit 2: The Jury Instructions in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Cr. No. 20-20148- SHL

Exhibit 3: The Jury’s Verdict in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Cr. No. 20-20148- SHL

Exhibit 4: Order Denying Defendant’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal as to Counts 11 and 12; Granting Defendant’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal as to Counts 19 and 20; and Denying Defendant’s Motion for New Trial in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, No. 2:20-cr-20148-SHL

Exhibit 5: Criminal Complaint in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Katie Ayers, Brooke Boudreaux Case No. 21-cr-20003-MSN/tmp

Exhibit 6: Motion to Dismiss Indictment without Prejudice and the Pretrial Diversion Agreement in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Katie Ayers, Brooke Boudreaux Crim. No. 2:21-cr-20003-SHL

Chairman Ferrell Haile explained the complaints and submitted the court documents that support the information in the complaints. The committee had some discussion and some questions from Senator Robinson.

Senator Jack Johnson made a motion that Sen. Robinson’s actions in the two matters that were articulated by Chairman Haile do constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Senate. The committee voted 4-1 in support of the motion.

A second motion was made by Senator Jack Johnson that should the senate find that the actions that have been laid forth do constitute a violation of the Senate Code of Ethics that this committee in compliance with Article 11, Section 12 of the Constitution of Tennessee recommend that Sen. Robinson be expelled from the body. The committee voted 4-1 in support of the motion.

Therefore, the Senate ethics committee finds that Senator Robinson’s actions in the two complaints do constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Senate and that if the Senate makes that same finding, further recommends the Senate, in compliance with Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution of the state of Tennessee, expel Senator Robinson from the body.

/signed/

Chairman Ferrell Haile

Sen. Jack Johnson

Sen. Steve Southerland

Sen. John Stevens

New TNJ edition alert: Tiptoeing through Tipton, Robinson’s travails, and a Merritt obit

State Sen. Katrina Robinson confers with Rep. G.A. Hardaway (both D-Memphis) after the Sente Ethics Committee recommended Robinson’s expulsion on Jan. 20, 20222. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

— Senate approves slightly revised maps, House votes next week. Changes include splitting Tipton County between Rep. Cohen’s and Kustoff’s districts.

— Ethics panel calls for Robinson’s Senate expulsion, Democrats protest.

— Obituary: Gil Merritt, Supreme Court finalist who threw out fleeing felon laws.

Also: Another potential GOP candidate in the new-look 5th District, Orgel gets weak-kneed over decrepit buildings in Memphis, and Lundberg gets a new office.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

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New TNJ edition alert: Congressional redistricting on tap, Robinson seeks to avoid prison time

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), left, walks to look at a proposed House redistricting map on Dec. 17, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

It’s The Tennessee Journal’s first print edition of the year! Here’s what’s in it:

 — House to release congressional maps, but Senate mum on plans.

— Nashville is reportedly a finalist, but how far will mayor push for convention if GOP breaks up his brother’s U.S. House seat?

— From the courts: Robinson lawyers argue loss of Senate seat would be punishment enough for fraud conviction; Kelsey can’t use money campaign fundraiser to pay defense attorneys.

— State casts doubt on whether pharmacy benefit manager bill does what sponsors said it would do.

Also: Boyd runs Antarctic marathon, ECD halts China recruiting, Tennessee Waltz figure rejected for Memphis job, and Faison’s referee pantsing.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

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Robinson attends special session despite federal fraud conviction

Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), center in yellow, hears from Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis), right, on the Senate floor in Nashville on Oct. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) surprised observers by attending the first day of a special legislative session despite her recent conviction on federal wire fraud charges.

Robinson’s attorneys have asked the judge to throw out the verdict or order a new trial, but no decision has yet been made on that front. Republican leaders had hoped Robinson would sit out the special session on Ford incentives and the one expected to follow on COVID-19 mandates. The question will be whether the GOP now decides to being ouster procedures.

Robinson isn’t scheduled to be sentenced until just before the regular session begins in January.

Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) attends a special session Nashville on Oct. 18, 2021, despite her recent conviction on federal fraud charges. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New TNJ edition alert: Ford incentive deal gets scant attention amid furor over COVID-19 mandates

The 6 1/2-square-mile Memphis Regional Megasite.

The new print edition of The Tenenssee Journal is out. Here’s what we covered this week:

— Ford session near, but still no official call on COVID-19 mandates.
— Robinson faces Senate removal following conviction in fraud trial (with cameos from John Ford, Tommy Burnett, and Ed Gillock).
— Cue the waterworks: State releases plan for spending federal funds on water, sewer projects.
— Obituary: Jim Coley, social studies teacher who spent 14 years as lawmaker.

Also: Mick Jagger on a pedal tavern, big school districts and teachers’ union frozen out of BEP review, Randy Boyd apologizes for Mark Pody fundraiser, and Steve Cohen makes an endorsement in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

As always, access your copy of the TNJ here or subscribe here.