MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After two and a half weeks of testimony and even taking the stand herself claiming her innocence, a jury now must make a decision in the Katrina Robinson fraud case.
Closing arguments ended around 6 p.m. Wednesday evening. However, the jury elected to go home for the evening and return Thursday morning to begin deliberations at 9 a.m.
The state senator is looking at federal wire fraud charges after the government claims she used hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for her certified nursing school on personal expenses.
Earlier this week a judge dropped 15 of the 20 counts she initially faced. In part of her reasoning for dropping the charges the judge cited evidence match to the government’s different theories and that switching theories could have resulted in a mistrial.
Before hearing the attorneys closing arguments the judge read the jury a long list of instructions. She told them it is up to them to decide whether the government has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
She also told the jury they are not supposed to guess why they’re no longer to consider the 15 other counts.
In his closing argument prosecutor Scott Smith walked the jury through the process his team says Robinson used to defraud the government saying it’s not possible for any discrepancies to be innocent mistakes.
Robinson’s attorney, Janika White talked about how Robinson created, The Healthcare Institute, an environment where others could be productive. She said the government purposely left out information in the case, picking only certain pieces to highlight and that the investigation by FBI agents was riddled with mistakes.
White told the jury, “the government has asked you to speculate at every turn.” She also said, “What we have proven is that the government has gotten it wrong time and time again.”
In his closing rebuttal, prosecutor Chris Cotten questioned Robinson’s credibility, telling the jury that when she took the stand to testify she was going over, “carefully rehearsed talking points.”
Robinson first took to the stand late Tuesday afternoon, telling the jury she had been wrongly accused by the federal government. She said the government had dragged her name through the mud.
Wednesday, her attorney Lawrence Laurenzi continued his questioning, asking her about the Annual Performance Review reports the school she founded were required to submit, due to receiving federal grant funds.
Robinson talked about the other employees who helped her create the extensive report. She said they used her access code to work on the document, which is comprised of student information.
Prosecutors say she falsified the reports over the years, misrepresenting the number of students who received scholarships from the school, which ultimately came from the federal dollars.
The senator said she reviewed the reports but, “I did not go line by line to verify each student. It would not be feasible.”
She relied on her employees’ work, saying she would never intentionally defraud and there was no need to.
She acknowledged human error mistakes were made in the report but said they were never intentional.
When prosecutors had a chance to question Robinson, she pointed out multiple times that she did not believe investigators on the case understood how the grant and student filing records worked.
She was questioned about her 2016 wedding expenses, including payments to a catering company and makeup artist.
When asked for further clarification by her accountant’s staff through email, the prosecutor brought up an email showing Robinson said it was for “a community-patient education event.”
Robinson told the attorney, “I’m not going to let you tell half the story.”
She went on to say there was a phone call with accounting staff between when the emails were sent that provided more detail into expenses at the time.
Robinson said wedding payments had been paid back to the school’s fund and were never used with grant funds.
When the prosecutor asked why there was no reason listed for the cash deposits back into the account, Robinson said she didn’t think the bank teller cares.
The prosecutor said, “Your accountant cares.”
Robinson responded, “They reconcile with what’s in our financial records. The financial records that y’all never looked at until last month.”
The jury was expected to get the case Wednesday afternoon.