state senate

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.

Sen. Roberts released from hospital

Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) speak on the Senate floor on Jan. 10, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) has been released from the hospital after suffering an aneurysm. Here’s an update from the Senate Republican Caucus:

Senator Kerry Roberts has been released from Skyline Medical Center and is now at home. Although he will be on bed rest during the upcoming days, his medical team continues to anticipate a full recovery from the subarachnoid hemorrhage he experienced on October 9th.

Senator Roberts continues to express his appreciation for the encouraging messages and prayers for his recovery. He is also extremely grateful for the support shown to his wife, Dianne, and his children

Gresham announces she won’t run for re-election to state Senate

State Sen. Dolores Gresham has announced she won’t seek another term in the Tennessee Senate this year. The Somerville Republican is the chair of the Senate Education Committee and a longtime champion of school vouchers.

Here’s the full release from Gresham:

NASHVILLE – Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) announced today that she will not be a candidate for re-election in 2020.  Gresham made the announcement in an email to constituents in Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy and Henderson Counties in the 26th senatorial district.

“It has been the honor of my life, surpassed only by my service in the U.S. Marine Corps, to serve the people of Tennessee, especially children,” said Sen. Gresham. “I am very thankful for the support, friendship, and kindness of my constituents who have entrusted me to represent them for the past 18 years.”

Gresham served six years in the House of Representatives before being elected in 2008 to three consecutive terms in the Tennessee Senate.  She was appointed chairman of the Senate Education Committee as a freshman senator, presiding over the committee during a time of tremendous student progress at the K-12 level.  Her tenure as chairman also saw unprecedented growth in access to post-secondary education at Tennessee’s colleges and universities.

“There will be no weaning process,” Gresham said after announcing her retirement.  “I will continue to fulfill my promise to constituents to serve them to the fullest as their senator until my successor is elected in November.” 

Gresham is carrying several key bills this year.  This includes legislation proposed by Governor Bill Lee to ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected and a comprehensive bill to increase literacy in the early grades.  During her tenure, Gresham sponsored major school choice legislation establishing Individual Education Accounts (IEA) to provide pathways to customized education for students with special needs, and Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to give low-income children an opportunity to receive a quality education.  She also initiated a series of bills in 2018 to address sexual misconduct by teachers to ensure children are safe in the classroom.

“This is not a retreat,” the former Lt. Colonel said as she pledged to continue to work to improve education in Tennessee.  “In the words of General Chesty Puller, “I’m attacking in a different direction.”   Puller, who was a distinguished U.S. Marine Corps officer, was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.

Gresham has served as Chairman of the Education Committee for the State Council of State Government’s Southern Legislative Conference.  She also served as Vice Chairman of the Education Commission of the States.  

In other leadership roles, Gresham has been a champion of Tennessee farmers and advancing agriculture in Tennessee. She and her husband, Will, live on their cattle farm in Fayette County.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally said, “Dolores Gresham has devoted her life to serving others. She served all Americans with great distinction in the United States Marine Corps and every Tennessee citizen as a member of the Tennessee House and Senate. Her determined passion for education led her to oversee one of the most improved periods in education in Tennessee history as chairman. She has been a strong conservative voice and a fierce advocate for her constituents. Her departure will certainly leave a void. I am grateful for her friendship and plan to continue soliciting her wise counsel. She will be greatly missed as a member of the Senate.”

Senate Republican Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said, “Both in service to our county and our state, Senator Gresham exemplifies the Semper Fi motto of the U.S. Marines as ‘always faithful.’   She has been a tremendous advocate for students and her contributions to excellence in education will be felt for many years to come.    We will miss her terribly, but wish her well as she starts this next chapter.”

Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston) said, “Sen. Gresham and I were elected to the Senate at the same time and I am very grateful for her sterling service in the legislature, especially as Chairman of the Education Committee.  Few people have positively influenced education more than Chairman Gresham, always putting students first.  I wish her and Will the best life has to offer.”

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate has died

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) has died, state Rep. Antonio Parkinson announced on Twitter on Monday.

Tate, 65, was defeated in last year’s Democratic primary by Katrina Robinson, a business owner and nurse. A hot mic incident in which Tate vented to a Republican colleague about his frustration with Democrats questioning his party loyalty was a major flashpoint of the campaign.

“I don’t like the lies. But I won’t take time out to respond to it. But I will tell you guys, there is not one time I sold anyone else out,” Tate told his supporters during the race. “I work for $20,000 a year. It won’t pay my car note. I can’t take nothing under the table or on top of the table. I’m too tall to hide.”

Tate said he’d worked both sides of the aisle to get results for his home district. He represented the district for 12 years.

Rose wins GOP primary in special election to succeed Norris in Senate

Covington businessman Paul Rose won the Republican nomination contest in the special election to succeed former state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). Rose won 60% of the vote, compared with 14.4% for George Chism, 14.3% for Heidi Shafer, and 11% for former state Rep. Steve McManus.

Rose will face Eric R. Coleman, who received 543 in his uncontested Democratic primary.  The general election is March 12.

Former Rep. Fincher endorses Rose in special state Senate election

The primary for the special election to succeed former state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris  is on Thursday. The race features one Republican candidate from Tipton County (businessman Paul Rose) and three from Shelby County (former Commissioners George Chism and Heidi Shafer and former state Rep. Steve McManus).

Rose has landed the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher along with a host of other officials and luminaries.

“His conservative credentials as a small business owner and strong background as a man of faith make him exactly what Shelby and Tipton counties need in a state senator,” Fincher said in a release.

Full release after the jump.

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