MEMPHIS, Tenn. — State senator Katrina Robinson argued she was wrongly accused when she took the stand in her own defense at her federal wire fraud trial.
On Monday, the judge acquitted the Shelby County Democrat on 15 of the 20 charges she was originally facing for fraud, theft, and embezzlement.
Robinson appeared calm and confident while testifying.
When she was on the stand, she was asked about the school she founded and how she used grants from the federal government.
Robinson fired back, saying the federal government has dragged her through the mud when the government knows she did not misuse funds.
She’s accused of misusing federal grant money over four years for her business, The Healthcare Institute.
Prosecutors argue she used the money for her wedding, entertainment, and more.
When asked if she used the grant money for her wedding, she said her father would turn over in his grave if he knew she married someone who couldn’t pay for a wedding.
“Having the defendant look the jury in the eye and say, ‘Look, I didn’t mean to deceive anybody,’ that can be very strong for a defense case,” said University of Memphis Law Professor and former federal prosecutor Steve Mulroy.
Mulroy said having a defendant like Robinson testify in court can sometimes help a case.
“What I will say in this case is when it’s a fraud allegation, so much depends on if any screw-ups were an innocent mistake versus an intent to deceive,” said Mulroy.
During the trial, Robinson admitted she never applied for a grant or managed one before, so she sought advice from a lawyer.
She repeatedly said the government is accusing her of stealing $600,000 from it when she didn’t.
Prosecutors also questioned Robinson’s coworkers and asked if Robinson told them to make up information to meet the grant requirement, but her coworkers said she did not do that.
More tough questions will follow tomorrow in court.
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“The disadvantage is you open up yourself to cross-examination in particularly if someone has something in that background that they don’t want to come out like prior convictions,” said Mulroy.
The prosecution will begin to cross-examine Robinson Wednesday.
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