MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson and her legal team walked into the federal building on Monday hours after a federal judge granted a motion to acquit her on 15 of the 20 counts she’s facing.
Robinson has been accused of stealing $600,000 of federal grant dollars supposed to go to her school, The Healthcare Institute, on personal expenses.
The judge issued her ruling Sunday night after the defense called for a motion of acquittal. This comes after the prosecutors rested their case Thursday.
After the jury left for the day, Robinson’s attorneys called for a judgement of acquittal and the charges to be dropped saying the government didn’t prove their case.
According to her indictment, the counts she still faces are related to wire fraud. The counts of theft and embezzlement involving government programs have been dropped.
The judge gave an explanation for her ruling Monday. She cited the different theories from the government about how Robinson is accused of misusing funds.
She explained how she found issues with the first theory that Robinson used grant funds to pay expenses. She gave one example of calculations that came from an FBI accountant that were not supported by the evidence. For the government’s second theory that Robinson paid for THI expenses with THI money, she ultimately said there was not sufficient evidence to support that theory. She says these changing theories would result in a mistrial.
Mathew Jehl, one of Robinson’s attorneys, made several statements he said he wanted on the record in case there is an appeal. One of the statements was asking for the Court to grant a mistrial with prejudice. This means it would be dismissed permanently.
The judge responded that she did not believe the prosecution has acted in bad faith saying, “It’s a unique situation that has confused everyone,” and “If you’re asking for a mistrial it’s going to be a mistrial and a do over.”
Robinson’s team said they’re not asking for a mistrial and they want to move forward with the trial.
Attorneys working on the case have been ordered by the judge not to speak to the media.
Tennessee Representative G.A. Hardaway was one of several local lawmakers in the courtroom. He told us that he came to support his colleague.
“Making sure that she knows we all believe in the American justice system that you are innocent until unless proven guilty. And we believe that her personal, her professional and her political future is bright,” he said.
Hardaway acknowledges that it’s been damaging having to fight these charges, but he believes that justice will prevail and believes the judge was correct in dismissing the charges she dismissed.
The jury will return tomorrow afternoon with new instructions as the charges in this case have changed.
The defense is set to start calling their witnesses next.