Concluding a legal saga that brought an unceremonious end to one Democrat’s legislative career, former Tennessee state Senator Katrina Robinson was sentenced last week to time served and a year of probation for her conviction last year on multiple counts of wire fraud, as Memphis Fox affiliate WHBQ reports.
The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman following a lengthy hearing in which witnesses from both the prosecution as well as the defense spoke about Robinson, her personal history, and her character.
In the end, Lipman decided that Robinson should not be sentenced to any term of incarceration, citing the former lawmaker’s service to the community in the form of working as a nurse during the pandemic, among other things, according to the Commercial Appeal of Memphis.
The judge explained, “If someone commits a criminal offense that usually doesn’t prevent prison, frankly, but I think in this situation we’re not talking about someone who’s just done some average things,” telling Robinson, “[w]hat you’ve done has been beyond average to put yourself out there, to put yourself out there as someone to serve the public.”
Considering that the prosecution team sought a sentence of 10 months – the maximum under the relevant guidelines, the result at Friday’s hearing likely came as a disappointment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Cotten argued prior to sentencing, “Everything this defendant has done…have all gone toward spinning a narrative that anybody else but her is responsible for the situation she finds herself in. That it’s politics. That’s racial animus on somebody else’s part. That it’s racism. Sexism. That it’s anything but her own actions.”
Robinson’s legal woes date back to when she was indicted on 48 counts related to alleged misuse of federal funding meant for scholarships at a nursing school she operated, though the counts were subsequently reduced to 20. She was then acquitted by the judge on 15 of the remaining charges and then ultimately convicted by a jury of four fraud counts, two of which were later tossed by Lipman.
The one-time state senator was accused of using the aforementioned funds on lavish personal expenses including her wedding, her honeymoon, vehicles, vacation travel, makeup, and luxury goods, as the Daily Mail noted, and she was also alleged to have transferred significant sums to her personal accounts in excess of what was allowed by the terms of the federal grants she received.
As a result of her conviction, the Tennessee Senate voted by a margin of 27-5 to expel Robinson from the legislature back in February, making her the first lawmaker in the state to face that particular disgrace since 1866. Even so, there remain many who believe she got off too easy by avoiding and jail time at all, given the scope of the fraud in which she clearly engaged.