A day after stepping down from his House seat, Robin Smith pleaded guilty on Tuesday to honest services wire fraud in connection with an illicit campaign vendor set up with the knowledge of a former House speaker and run by his former chief of staff.
Smith, a Hixson Republican and former state party chairman, pleaded before U.S. District Court Judge Eli Richardson after being accused of accepting bribes from Phoenix Solutions. Richardson accepted the plea and set a sentencing hearing for October 17.
Smith will remain free on bail until the hearing.
Richardson explained during the plea hearing that she could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. It’s unclear if she’ll serve any jail time, but she’ll likely have to return any payments she’s received and forfeit any ill-gotten gains.
In a statement, Smith said: “There are no excuses. I intend to cooperate fully as a witness with the federal government and do whatever I can to assist the government in this regard. She did not say afterward whether she would testify against former House Speaker Glen Casada.
According to federal prosecutors’ criminal case, Cade Cothren, who worked for Rep. Glen Casada before and after his short stint as Speaker of the House in 2019, created the bogus vendor called Phoenix Solutions in New Mexico because the state allows anonymous filings.
The charging document against Smith says Casada and Smith pressured the House Republican Caucus and lawmakers to do business with Phoenix Solutions, including work on taxpayer-funded shippers. In return, Cothren gave them bribes, according to the filing.
Phoenix Solutions won more than $200,000, and according to the billing document, Smith and Casada received approximately $4,100.
Smith did not say afterward if she would testify against Casada.
She made this statement through Chattanooga-based Waterhouse Public Relations: “Once the Department of Justice informed me of the nature of my actions, I took full responsibility for my actions, resulting in my guilty plea.
“There are no excuses. I intend to cooperate fully as a witness with the federal government and do whatever I can to assist the government in this regard.
Smith said she resigned her seat at Hamilton County House “out of respect for the honor of Tennesseans”, her commitment to public service and her Christian faith.
“Rather than continuing to serve in the General Assembly, I intend to remain active in my community and my church. Although it was a difficult time in my life, I remain convinced that something positive will come out of it. »
Smith declined to comment further.