Sen. Katrina Robinson hugs a supporter in April during legislative session. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A jury found state Sen. Katrina Robinson guilty of four counts of wire fraud on Thursday after six hours of deliberation. On the remaining count of fraud, jurors found Robinson not guilty.
Robinson and her lawyers indicated they would pursue several legal avenues in response to the verdict, including a motion for a new trial. In a press conference on Thursday, Robinson spoke to the public for the first time since the trial began.
“I hoped that today after over a year of allegations, accusations, harassment, and persecution at the hands of the prosecution, we would have a verdict that would end this nightmare in its entirety,” said Robinson at the federal courthouse in downtown Memphis, standing with her children and her legal team. “That didn’t happen. But our fight is far from over.”
The federal government initially accused Robinson of 48 charges of embezzlement and fraud in July 2020. After several interceding motions and revised indictments, including fifteen charges dismissed by Judge Sheryl Lipman on Sunday, the jury was left to consider only five counts.
In a statement made just after the verdict, ranking Senate Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally called on Robinson to resign. State Sen. Sara Kyle, as well as representatives London Lamar, Antonio Parkinson, Jesse Chism and Torrey Harris attended the last day of proceedings and were present in the courtroom when the jury read its verdict.
We do not think the jury had the whole picture of what was actually happenind. This was a very complicated case that I don't think a layman or the average person could understand without thorough background.
– Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis
Two of the four wire fraud charges on which Robinson was convicted relate to purchases made by Robinson in June 2016, transactions that totaled just under $3,500. The prosecution argued that Robinson intentionally misrepresented these purchases as part of a larger, though unsuccessful, scheme to convert grant money into private funds through her Memphis business, The Health Care Institute.
U.S. attorneys pointed to an email in which THI accountants asked Robinson to clarify a list of purchases, two of which relate to her wedding, and she responded with references to different types of classifications, including categories of grant expenses. No money was ultimately debited from grant funds for these purchases.
The three remaining wire fraud charges corresponded to three Annual Performance Reports completed by The Healthcare Institute for the federal government in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The government argued that inaccuracies on these reports constituted intentional misrepresentations to maintain THI’s funding.
Robinson’s lawyers argued that the inaccuracies were due to human error, saying the reports were not tied to funding, often underreported grants and enrollment and that data was entered by Robinson’s administrative assistants, not by Robinson herself. The jury was split on these charges, finding Robinson guilty on two counts and not guilty on one.
“We do not think the jury had the whole picture of what was actually happening. This was a very complicated case that I don’t think a layman or the average person could understand without thorough background,” said Robinson Thursday evening on the Roland Martin Show.
Wire fraud is a class C felony that could result in imprisonment and fines up to $250,000. Judge Sheryl Lipman has scheduled Robinson’s sentencing for 9 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2022.
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