Tennessee State Representative Robin Smith (R-Hixson) resigned from office effective Monday, March 7 after being federally indicted of one count of wire fraud due to allegations of a conspiracy reportedly involving a former speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
According to a court information document, Smith is charged with Honest Services Wire Fraud, a felony violation which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison with no minimum sentence. The maximum fine if convicted is $250,000.
Smith is charged in connection with an alleged conspiracy that involved former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Glen Casada, as well as his former chief of staff Cade Cothren. Individual 1 in the document refers to Casada, while Individual 2 refers to Cothren. Casada resigned from his position as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2019 due to an unrelated scandal.
Smith is accused, along with Casada, of receiving kickbacks from Cothren’s Phoenix Solutions LLC in exchange for using their official Tennessee General Assembly positions to arrange for Cothren’s LLC to be a constituent services mail vendor to members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Smith is also accused, along with Casada and Cothren, of hiding Cothren’s ownership of Phoenix Solutions LLC “from the State and members of the Tennessee General Assembly due to the expectation that Phoenix Solutions would not be approved by the Tennessee House Speaker’s Office, acting on behalf of the State, or hired as a vendor by individual members if (Cothren’s) involvement was disclosed,” according to the information document.
Tennessee State Representatives were allocated $3,000 a year each to fund constituent legislative update mailers.
The filing alleges that Smith participated in a conspiracy that intended “to defraud the citizens of the people of the district of Middle Tennessee and the government of Tennessee of their right to the honest services of a public official.” It further alleges that Smith received kickbacks and that the alleged conspiracy was executed and transmitted through “means of wire communication in interstate commerce, writings, signs, signals, pictures, and sounds.”
In addition to other penalties that could occur upon conviction, the U.S. Attorney’s office is seeking the asset forfeiture of “any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense, including but not limited to a money judgement in an amount to be determined representing the value of the proceeds of the offense.”
According to the document, Smith is currently represented by attorney David Bridgers. The trial counsel for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Tennessee is John P. Taddei.
Magistrate Judge Chip Frensley has issued a search warrant as well.
The Tennessee Star reported on January 9, 2022 that his house and office were raided by FBI agents. The Star further reported that agents were spotted at Smith’s and State Rep. Kent Calfee’s (R-Kingston) offices, as well as the homes of former Casada aides Cothren and Holt Whitt. Only Smith, Casada, and Cothren are mentioned in this current court information document.
At the time, current Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) issued a statement about the Cordell Hull Building raid that took place in Nashville.
“Since becoming Speaker, I have been contacted by federal authorities regarding an ongoing investigation related to the former speaker’s office.
I have been, and I will continue to be in full cooperation with the authorities as their investigation continues.
On the advice of both Ethics and Legal Counsel, I am placing everyone that was subject to the execution of today’s search warrants on administrative leave until further notice.”
The Star reached out to both former Rep. Smith and Rep. Glen Casada for comment. Neither Wright nor Casada has responded as of this writing.
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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected] Follow Aaron on GETTR.
Photo “Glen Casada” by Tennessee General Assembly. Background Photo “Tennessee State Capitol” by FaceMePLS. CC BY 2.0.