(photo credit to votekatrinarobinson.com)
The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-
Tennessee state Sen. Katrina Robinson’s trial on federal charges of 48 counts of wire fraud and embezzlement has been scheduled for September 2021 after Robinson and her attorneys appeared before a federal judge Friday to discuss a timeline of court proceedings.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4. Robinson, a freshman Democrat from Memphis, was indicted by a federal grand jury in July after charges were unsealed alleging Robinson used more than $600,000 in federal grant funds for her health care education business to pay for personal expenses. Robinson pled not guilty to all charges in August.
Attorneys discussed a three- to four-week trial next September, and are in the process of evidentiary discovery, reviewing more than 20,000 documents gathered in the federal investigation. Robinson’s attorneys noted reviewing and analyzing all the documents, then preparing their case, will take time.
In addition to the thousands of documents, about 60 witnesses, many of whom are located out-of-town, will testify in the trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Cotton noted the logistical difficulty of arranging the testimony amid COVID-19 restrictions and supported the September 2021 trial date.
Robinson’s charges relate to her alleged use of federal grant funds intended for her for-profit nursing school, The Healthcare Institute, which received more than $2.2 million in federal grants between 2015 and 2019.
According to the indictment, Robinson allegedly used $600,000 in federal grant funds to pay for personal expenses, including her wedding, honeymoon and, later, legal fees for her divorce; purchases of electronics, clothing and beauty products; a home theater and iron entry door for her personal residence; a 2016 Jeep Renegade; and $54,000 to her personal IRA.
If convicted, Robinson could face up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Robinson’s home and the Jeep allegedly purchased with federal grant funds have been seized by the government. Robinson’s attorneys expressed concern she still is required to make payments on both, and signaled plans to bring up the issue with the court in the future.
Robinson has signaled no intention to relinquish any of her legislative duties as the legal proceedings move forward. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has asked the Senate Ethics committee to look into the matter, a spokesperson confirmed.
Robinson has been vocal on social media, encouraging her constituents to vote in the upcoming elections.