Judge explains acquittal of 15 of the 20 counts facing State Sen. Katrina Robinson
Judge Cheryl Lipman says prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Less than 24 hours after Judge Cheryl Lipman acquitted Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson of 15 of the 20 charges facing her, Robinson arrived at the federal courthouse in Downtown Memphis Monday morning to begin week three of her trial.
There was no jury Monday, only an oral ruling from Lipman on her reasoning for the acquittal.
The 15 counts involved counts 1-4, 5-10, and 13-17.
Counts 1-4 were the embezzlement charges.
Up until this point, it was alleged that Robinson spent an estimated $586,000 in federal grant money on personal purchases.
Lipman stated the prosecution’s key witness, FBI forensic accountant Victoria Howell, was inconsistent in her report and that her math doesn’t add up.
Counts 5-10 and 13-17 were for wire fraud, and Lipman simply explained the prosecution failed to prove without a shadow of a doubt that Robinson committed this crime.
Now, those charges have been done away with, but charges 11, 12, and 18-20, all wire fraud charges, are still on the table.
“I certainly believe the judge was correct in dismissing the charges that she dismissed,” said Democratic state senator for TN-93, G.A. Hardaway.
Hardaway was present at the court session in support of Robinson, along with State Senator Sara Kyle and other friends and relatives.
He spoke with media after court adjourned for the day, advocating that Robinson has been a vital state delegate in Nashville.
“[Robinson’s] personal, professional, political future is bright,” Hardaway said. “It’s been damaged in having to fight these charges, but we believe justice will prevail.”
After Lipman explained her reasons for the acquittal, Robinson’s defense called for a mistrial with a bar on an appeal, meaning the prosecution could not have a do-over in charging Robinson and taking her to court.
The prosecution recently changed their theory of the case, that instead of stealing HRSA grant money intended for her business, The Healthcare Institute (THI), for personal use, Robinson misused THI funds for personal use.
This is what the defense said justified their reasoning for a mistrial, and Lipman agreed that under normal circumstances, a change in theory this far into the case would result in a mistrial.
However, due to the uniqueness of the case, Lipman is allowing the trial to resume and also added the new theory fits the remaining wire fraud charges facing Robinson.
Lipman was very clear, though, that the prosecution’s shift in theory is “inappropriate” and “just not fair.”
The defense seemed to have a plan for any outcome, whether Lipman was to agree to a mistrial or not.
Robinson, who has been silent during this entire trial, stood before Lipman and said, “I would like to proceed with the trial.”
“We all believe in the American justice system that you are innocent until proven guilty,” Hardaway said.
The defense estimates they need no more than two days before resting their case.
Robinson’s trial continues Tuesday at 1 p.m.
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