State Senator Goes to Trial Over Accusations of Using $600K Grant for Wedding, Honeymoon

A Tennessee state senator is going to trial over accusations of her using more than $600,000 in federal funds received by a health care school she directed to pay for her wedding and honeymoon.

State Senator Katrina Robinson was charged in July last year with wire fraud, theft and embezzlement involving government programs after prosecutors said she stole money from federal grants provided to her school.

Prosecutors said that Robinson used more than $600,000 of the grant money from 2015 through 2019 to pay for personal expenses including her wedding and honeymoon, a 2016 Jeep Renegade for her daughter, travel expenses for her family and an event for her state Senate campaign.

Robinson was charged after the FBI searched the school and her home. Jury selection for the trial started Monday, and Robinson has pleaded not guilty.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Embezzlement
Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson is being charged with wire fraud and theft and embezzlement involving government programs after prosecutors say she used more than $600,000 of federal grant money to pay for personal expenses, including her wedding and honeymoon. Jury selection for the trial began Monday. Getty Images

The Memphis Democrat was elected to the General Assembly in 2018. She was accused of stealing funds from federal grants slated for The Healthcare Institute, which provides training for jobs in the health care field.

The school, which Robinson directed, received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

An FBI affidavit alleged the federal funds were deposited into the school's bank account for its operations. The funds were then "commingled indiscriminately with personal expenditure for the benefit of Robinson and her immediate family," FBI special agent Matthew Pruitt wrote.

She also used the money to pay for legal fees for her divorce, home improvements and a snow cone business operated by her children, prosecutors said.

Robinson also paid herself $169,134 more than she was allowed to under salary amounts permitted by the federal grant, the FBI affidavit said. She also gave herself $54,000 for her personal retirement account, prosecutors said.

Robinson's attorney, Janika White, said Robinson would be vindicated. Robinson said in July 2020 that she would fight the charges.

"It is believed that if I were not in the position that I'm in, that if I did not champion the voices, the views and the faces that I represent, that I would not be in this moment right now," said Robinson, who is Black.

The Senate Democratic Caucus has said Robinson's work in the state Legislature "is not in question" and she "deserves the presumption of innocence and due process."

If convicted, Robinson faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Robinson would be up for reelection in 2022.

Robinson also faces federal charges in a second case related to an alleged tuition payment fraud. She has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Katrina Robinson
State Senator Katrina Robinson is set to go on trial on charges that she stole more than $600,000 in federal funds. This undated photo provided by the Tennessee State Senate shows Robinson posing for a photo in Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee State Senate via AP