Sen. Katrina Robinson appears before judge ahead of scheduled trial, says charges are racially motived

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee State Sen. Katrina Robinson’s legal team says they are confident in her innocence less than a month before her trial is set to start.

Robinson is accused of stealing money from Tennessee Health Institute. Federal prosecutors say the money was supposed to go toward her certified nursing school, but instead they say the money was spent on personal expenses like lavish vacations, clothes, cars and other items.

Robinson appeared in federal court Friday before her scheduled trial. She believes the charges she’s looking at are racially motivated.

“I’ve been criminalized for something that normally wouldn’t be a criminal activity,” Robinson said. “All I’ve done is try to expand our business, run our business in the best way possible, to grant new opportunities for our students to expand our reach.”

She said prior to the charges, she was given accolades for her work and has been trying to help with the shortage of healthcare workers. Since the indictment, Robinson says she received some harassment but also support.

“From this attack from the government I have endured quite a bite-like losses in my finances as well as the businesses being stripped of the resources where our students go to school, and I think people have taken notice of that,” Robinson said. “We’ve had almost 1,000 students graduate from our institution over the past six years and those students have shown their support.”

In Fridays court appearance attorneys argued about which witnesses should or shouldn’t appear at trial.  They also argued over the crux of the case: was the money Robinson allegedly spent really hers to spend?

The government argues there were stipulations that came with the multi-million dollar federal grant for the school Robinson founded. Her attorneys believe differently.

“The proof is going to show that she was the sole owner, sole member, sole shareholder of the LLC and later the corporation who just like everybody who owns a company, if you run a good company and your company makes money, you get to spend it. It’s no different here,” said her attorney Lawrence Laurenzi.

Robinson’s trial is set to start September 13. 

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