With pleadings ending early Wednesday night, jurors are expected to begin deliberating on whether to convict Katrina Robinson after a nearly two-week trial to determine whether the Tennessee state senator abused federal funding for a school nursing training she has.
The jury is due to begin its deliberations Thursday at 9 a.m.
Although much of the trial was dense, and testimony often followed money from various sources and funds, there were a few moments of surprise.
After the prosecution closed its case on Thursday, Federal Judge Sheryl Lipman on Sunday granted a defense motion to acquit Robinson of 15 of 20 federal counts of fraud and embezzlement.
Explaining his decision to acquit Robinson of the charges, Lipman said the government changed its strategy during the calling of witnesses in a way that would likely have resulted in the trial being quashed.
And, in another unusual courtroom scene, Robinson came to his own defense; the state senator answered hours of questions from prosecutors about how her vocational school, The Healthcare Institute, how it classifies expenses and how her school has tracked individual students and how their scholarships are funded corresponding.
Robinson, 40, had been accused by the government of embezzling $ 600,000 in federal scholarship funds. Instead, prosecutors said, some federal funding was used for personal expenses associated with Robinson’s wedding, a Jeep for his daughter, designer handbags and other items.
Robinson faces five other counts of wire fraud and criminal confiscation.
A central point in the defense was the timing of the case. The investigation began in 2016 following anonymous intelligence, but Robinson and his lawyers said the Healthcare Institute continued to be approved for multiple rounds of grants with no indication of anything in their submitted files. was not up to the standards of the grant program.
According to prosecutors, the Robinson investigation began with anonymous intelligence in 2016. Yet, the defense said, Robinson’s school continued to be approved for one series of federal grants after another.
At no point, Robinson said on Wednesday, did anyone in the government indicate anything in school records that needed clarification.
“I never had the opportunity to review the files until I was charged,” said Robinson, adding that she had maintained a friendly and productive relationship with the partner agent who regularly reviewed the claims. .
In opening remarks, defense attorneys said the onus was on the government to prove that Robinson acted with intent. At various points in the trial, they admitted that errors were made in the way certain expenses were tracked, but argued prosecutors were unable to prove that they were made intentionally.
The prosecution focused on several aspects of the Institute of Health records, but most of the questions asked of Robinson on Thursday were based on the actual number of students who attended the school and whether that number matched the amount of the stock market.
False statements, prosecutors said, were intentionally made regarding the number of students. The defense responded to this accusation with records indicating that the school had graduated the number of students required by the terms of the grant.
While several of the personal expenses that the government accused of illegal financing of Robinson were essentially dismissed after Robinson’s acquittal of the 15 charges, the prosecution maintained that records showed that the 2016 wedding expenses had been tampered with in record keeping and recorded as expenses related to a community event. for the Institute of Health.
The prosecution said the vagueness of how these expenses were recorded was telling and the question of those expenses should influence the jury’s decision-making.
Micaela Watts is a reporter for The Commercial Appeal and can be contacted at [email protected]