When state Sen. Katrina Robinson was indicted this week for alleged theft, embezzlement and wire fraud, she joined a long list of Tennessee lawmakers to face state or federal charges.
Robinson, D-Memphis, who was taken into custody Thursday and released on her own recognizance, stopped short of denying the charges she faced but asked her constituents for their continued support.
The following is a roundup of state lawmakers who have been indicted for a variety of reasons.
Sen. Katrina Robinson — Democrat — 2020
The Memphis-based freshman lawmaker was indicted on 48 counts, including 24 counts of theft and embezzlement from government programs and 24 counts of wire fraud. Robinson allegedly used federal grant money from her for-profit nursing college to buy a vehicle for her daughter, expenses related to her wedding and honeymoon, and legal fees for her divorce. She was also accused of using the grant money to pay off credit cards and student loan payments, purchase beauty products and fund a campaign event.
If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in federal prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Rep. Joe Haynes — Democrat — 2017
The former state senator was indicted for one felony count of sexual battery, after he was accused of touching a woman without her consent. Haynes pleaded not guilty to the charges and was set to stand trial in 2018. The 81-year-old Nashville Democrat died before the trial began.
Rep. Bruce Hurley — Republican — 2017
Hurley, who was a lawmaker in the 1970s and 1980s, was charged and pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors for shoplifting, including stealing a pecan log, valued at $3.19, by concealing it in his pants. He was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days of probation and 120 days of house arrest.
Rep. Joe Armstrong — Democrat — 2016
Armstrong was convicted on federal tax fraud charges and sentenced in 2017 to six months house arrest, 300 hours of community service and three years probation. He refused to resign his seat until after a jury convicted him.
Rep. Larry Bates — Democrat — 2015
Bates, who served in the legislature in the 1970s, and his sons were accused by federal prosecutors of swindling more than $1 million from hundreds of people through their Memphis radio network. Bates and his sons denied the charges. In 2017, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $21 million in restitution.
Rep. Bill Beck — Democrat — 2015
Beck was charged with driving under the influence. The case was dismissed by a judge on the basis that the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull over Beck.
Sen. Jim Summerville — Republican — 2014
Summerville was indicted in Dickson County Circuit Court on misdemeanor charges of stalking, public intoxication and allowing dogs to run at large. The resolution of the case is unclear.
Rep. Jim Cobb — Republican — 2012
Cobb was charged but found not guilty of assaulting a campaign worker for his political opponent.
Rep. David Hawk — Republican — 2012
Hawk was convicted on misdemeanor reckless endangerment charges in state court related to a domestic incident with his ex-wife. He was sentenced to probation and community service.
Rep. Curry Todd — Republican — 2011, 2016
Todd pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and a weapons charge in 2011 in Nashville. He was sentenced to 48 hours in jail and one year of probation.
In 2016 he was arrested for purportedly stealing the signs of his primary opponent, Mark Lovell. Lovell bailed Todd out of jail before defeating him in the election. Lovell later resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct in Nashville.
Rep. Rob Briley — Democrat — 2007
Briley was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, evading arrest and vandalism after hitting a car in Middle Tennessee that ended in a high-speed police chase. He received a pre-trial judicial diversion on the evading arrest and vandalism charges. Briley pleaded guilty to the DUI and spent two full days in jail and another eight half-days in jail.
Sen. Jerry Cooper — Democrat — 2006
Cooper was charged but found not guilty of bank fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud after allegedly trying to defraud BankTennessee.
Operation Tennessee Waltz — 2005
Sen. Ward Crutchfield (Democrat), Sen. John Ford (Democrat), Sen. Kathryn I. Bowers (Democrat), former Sen. Roscoe Dixon (Democrat) and Rep. Chris Newton (Republican) were among those who were charged by federal authorities for their part in a bribery scheme. Crutchfield was sentenced to six months home confinement, two years probation and paid a $3,000 fine. Ford served four years in federal prison. Bowers pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and was sentenced to 16 months in prison. Dixon was sentenced to five years and three months after being convicted of bribery and extortion. Newton served about nine months in prison.
Rep. Keith Westmoreland — Republican — 2002
Westmoreland was charged in Florida with seven felony charges of exposing himself at a hotel. Westmoreland, who was also facing similar charges for an incident in Nashville, killed himself days after he was charged.
Rep. Ronnie Davis — Republican — 2002
Federal authorities indicted Davis on 15 felony counts alleging he and a Murfreesboro woman tried to sell fake diplomatic passports to two Texas men and tried to defraud First Tennessee Bank. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
Sen. Carl Koella — Republican — 1996
Koella faced charges from the Tennessee Highway Patrol after he left the scene of a fatal accident involving a motorcyclist. He plead guilty to the charges in 1997 and was sentenced to 30 days of community service, 11 months and 29 days of unsupervised probation and a $2,500 fine.
Sen. Bill Owen — Democrat — 1993
Owen, who served in the legislature from 1974 to 1990, was arrested in 1991 for drunk driving. The arresting officer said he found Owen sitting in his car with his genitals exposed along with a female passenger. In 1993, a Knox County jury failed to reach a verdict on the case, in part due to a faulty breathalyzer test. A second trial ended with the same result.
Rep. John Ford — Democrat — 1991
Ford was charged with aggravated assault and a weapons charge after allegedly firing a pistol through the sunroof of his Mercedes Benz at a trucker from Texas on Interstate 40 in West Tennessee. A jury later acquitted him.
Operation Rocky Top — 1989, 1990
In a wide-ranging investigation with federal and state authorities, current and former lawmakers were among the more than 70 people indicted for their roles in a massive illegal gambling operation. Although the crux of the investigation was about gambling, the probe found other areas of corruption.
Former state Rep. Jack Burnett was charged with conspiracy, illegal gambling and tax evasion. He was found guilty of conspiracy and tax fraud but acquitted on two other charges. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Rep. Tommy Burnett, a Democrat who was then the majority leader of the House, was charged with conspiracy, gambling, mail fraud and perjury. He was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $48,000 in restitution.
One day before he was set to be indicted for allegedly trying to extort $75,000 from a Knoxville lawyer in order to halt a bill in the legislature, Rep. Ted Ray Miller, a Democrat, killed himself.
Rep. Zane Whitson — Republican — 1987
Whitson was charged but found not guilty of conspiracy, falsifying bank records, tax evasion and forgery in federal court.
Rep. Tommy Burnett — Democrat — 1983
Burnett was convicted of failing to file income tax returns. He served 10 months in prison, where he was re-elected to the House of Representatives.
Sen. Edgar Gillock — Democrat — 1982
Gillock was convicted on 11 counts of conspiracy, fraud, extortion and tax evasion after using his office as a legislator to secure millions of dollars in government computer contracts. The indictment was the third in three years Gillock faced, with the first two trials ending with hung juries. Gillock was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Rep. Emmitt Ford — Democrat — 1980
Ford and his wife were convicted on 20 federal mail fraud and conspiracy charges. Ford resigned his seat and served time in federal prison.
Rep. Robert Fisher — Republican — 1979
Fisher was convicted in state criminal court of bribery charges after asking for a payoff from the sheriff of Carter County. Fisher, who was fined $500 and given a 30-day suspended jail sentence, was later expelled by the legislature.
Rep. Ira H. Murphy — Democrat — 1973
Murphy was charged with failing to file 1969 and 1970 income tax returns. He was sentenced to a year of probation.
Rep. Bryan Elder, Rep. Hugh Dixon — Democrats — 1970
Both Dixon and Elder were indicted on charges of breaking the state’s conflict of interest law, purportedly having contracts with the state while serving in the legislature. A criminal court judge dismissed the charges, saying the state conflict of interest law did not apply to lawmakers. An appellate court affirmed the dismissal, with the state Supreme Court refusing to hear the case. As a result, the charges against Elder and Dixon were nullified, according to The Tennessean’s archives.
Rep. E.B. Woodard — Democrat — 1966
The Carthage-based lawmaker, who served in the legislature from 1957 through 1964, was charged with nine counts of mail fraud. The resolution of the case is unclear.
Corinne Kennedy contributed to this report.
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Reach Joel Ebert at [email protected] or 615-772-1681 and on Twitter @joelebert29.