trial

Kelsey gets yearlong delay for federal campaign finance trial

State Sen. Brian Kelsey denies wrongdoing in a video conference call following his indictment on Oct. 25, 2021. (Image: screengrab from call)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) has been granted a yearlong delay before the start of his federal campaign finance trial.

Originally scheduled to begin next month, U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw ordered the proceedings to be re-set for Jan. 23, 2023. The motion to delay the case was made by Kelsey’s legal team and unopposed by the U.S. attorney’s office or codefendant Josh Smith.

The attorneys for all parties met with Crenshaw behind closed doors for 45 minutes on Monday morning while Kelsey and Smith urgently whispered to each other in the courtroom that was devoid of spectators other than two reporters. Upon ending the in camera meeting, the public portion of the hearing lasted about 10 minutes to formalize the new trial date, which Crenshaw described as a “firm.”

As previously reported in this week’s Tennessee Journal Kelsey attorney Paul Bruno said in a legal filing he faced a conflict with the original Jan. 18 court date because he is scheduled to go to trial in a quadruple homicide case in Nashville the following week. Bruno added the government has already provided “a significant amount of discovery” in the case and indicated more would be forthcoming. Given the volume of materials in the case, Kelsey and his legal team did not believe they had enough time to prepare for a trial next month.

Prosecutors say Kelsey funneled campaign funds from his state account through other political action committees to the American Conservative Union, the Washington-based organizer of CPAC conferences. The bulk of the money was then allegedly spent on radio ads supporting Kelsey’s unsuccessful bid for the 8th Congressional District in 2016. Kelsey has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has claimed to be the subject of a political witch hunt.

Jury seated in Democratic Sen. Robinson’s fraud trial

Katrina Robinson (Image credit: Tennessee General Assemlby)

A jury has been seated in the federal fraud trial of state Sen. Katrina Robinson. The Memphis Democrat is charged with spending more than $600,000 in federal grant money meant for her nursing school on personal expenses.

Opening statements are expected to take place on Tuesday. The trial could last more than three weeks.

Students at Robinson’s Healthcare Institute gathered outside the courthouse.

“We’re here to support her. She’s been nothing but great and amazing and we’re just going to support her,” Jennifer Taylor told WREG-TV. “But to be here together, standing for her, I’m very proud and very honored to be a part of the Healthcare Institute.”

The judge last week denied prosecutors’ motion to move the trial to Jackson or to bring in a jury pool from outside Shelby County.

Robinson, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, has pleaded not guilty.