Tennessee state senator acquitted of 15 of 20 federal charges

After judge’s ruling during trial, a jury is expected to return Tuesday to hear more of the case in remaining five charges.

Updated: September 27, 2021 - 8:59pm

A federal judge acquitted Tennessee state Sen. Katrina Robinson on 15 of the 20 counts of theft and embezzlement she was facing involving government funds.

Robinson, D-Memphis, still faces five charges, and the jury is expected to return Tuesday to hear more of the case. Federal Judge Sheryl Lipman was set to present the reasons for her acquittals in court Monday. Robinson was indicted on 48 counts in July 2020.

Robinson’s The Healthcare Institute received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services between 2015 and 2019.

Robinson was accused of stealing $600,000 from The Healthcare Institute to pay for personal expenses, including clothing and beauty products, a vehicle for her daughter, wedding and honeymoon expenses, legal fees for her divorce and a campaign event.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and HHS investigated the case.

A Center Square investigation showed Robinson also spent more than 10 times the average for a state senator while traveling to conferences, resulting in bills for $17,934.56 to Tennessee taxpayers over a 20-month period in 2019 through 2020.

She collected $6,000 per day in per diem pay on conference days.

Only two other Senators had billed the state more than $5,000 during that same span, the investigation showed.

Robinson denied that her conference spending was out of line with other Senators when asked about the 2020 report.

“As a first-term legislator who began service with no prior legislative experience, I have welcomed a number of recommendations and invitations for educational and developmental opportunities from my colleagues and leader,” Robinson said about the spending.