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Tennessee state senator faces expulsion over wire fraud allegation

Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, sits before the Senate Ethics Committee on Jan. 20.
Blaise Gainey
Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, sits before the Senate Ethics Committee on Jan. 20.

The state legislature is preparing to do something really rare. It’s preparing to expel one of its own members for just the second time in more than 40 years. 

The Senate Ethics Committee recommended expulsion yesterday for Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis over wire fraud charges. The full Senate will still need to hold a hearing to remove her. 

Robinson is awaiting sentencing after she was convicted of misusing federal dollars earmarked for scholarships at a nursing school she operates. Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, was the lone vote against the expulsion. She says they should let the legal process play out first. 

“Anything could happen before that final conviction notice is signed, and so therefore I don’t think it’s yet ripe for us to move forward,” said Akbari.

Under state law, if Robinson is sentenced for a felony, she would be automatically removed from office. 

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who leads the senate, suggested she should step down. 

“The removal of a senator under these circumstances is a very serious and historically unprecedented step,” McNally said in a press release. “I continue to hope Sen. Robinson will reflect on the findings of the committee and choose to step down voluntarily in the best interest of the Senate.”

Robinson maintains that she is innocent. After a jury trial, she was ultimately found guilty on two counts.

The last member to face expulsion was Franklin Republican Jeremy Durham. He was accused of misusing campaign funds and sexually harassing over 20 women.

Blaise Gainey is a Political Reporter for WPLN News. He is the youngest of three siblings, husband and father of two. He previously held the State Government Reporter position for WFSU News in Tallahassee. He is from Apopka, Fla., and graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He previously worked for The Florida Channel and WTXL-TV. He is excited to move to another capital and report on state government. In his spare time, he enjoys watching sports, outdoor activities and enjoying family time.
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