Ousted Tennessee Senator Sentenced to Probation for Fraud

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
March 19, 2022 Updated: March 20, 2022

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—A former Tennessee state senator expelled from office after a conviction for using federal grant money on wedding expenses instead of the nursing school she operates was sentenced Friday to a year of probation but no prison time.

Katrina Robinson had faced four to 10 months in prison under sentencing guidelines after she was found guilty in September of two counts of wire fraud in Memphis federal court. But U.S. District Judge Sheryl H. Lipman departed from the guidelines at sentencing, saying Robinson had already suffered greatly and the Memphis community would gain no benefit from prison time for the nursing school administrator, community leader, and mother of two.

Robinson, a Democrat, was elected to represent a Memphis district in the state Senate in 2018. She was removed from office last month by the Republican-led Senate in a vote along party lines.

The criminal case against Robinson involved federal grant money for a school for health care workers she started running before she was elected to public office.

In July 2020, prosecutors accused Robinson of paying personal expenses from more than $600,000 in federal grant money awarded to The Healthcare Institute, which trains nurses and focuses on helping low-income minority students. She was ultimately convicted of only two of 20 counts, involving about $3,400 in wedding expenses in 2016.

During the sentencing hearing, Robinson told the judge that she understood the importance of her case and acknowledged that she did not keep a “tight eye on things.”

Lipman criticized Robinson’s sloppy record-keeping and added that Robinson failed to respect the federal grant funded by taxpayers by not giving it proper attention.

Lipman also ruled Friday that Robinson had committed perjury during her trial when she defended an email that said money she used on her wedding was for a community patient education event and should be covered by grant money.

After the hearing, Robinson told reporters that she felt probation was appropriate and she plans to continue working in the community.