By Meghan Cooke
Originally published by The Charlotte Observer: Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012
CHARLOTTE — The woman accused of fatally stabbing another woman with a beer bottle last year outside Hartigan’s Irish Pub in Uptown pleaded guilty Thursday to involuntary manslaughter.
Several relatives of Antoinette Baker, the 30-year-old mother of six who was slain in the fight, sat in the back row of a Mecklenburg County courtroom, some crying as they listened to the hearing.
Katie Robinson, 32, pleaded guilty in an arrangement with prosecutors. She was sentenced to up to about two years in prison, but that sentence was suspended for three years of supervised probation and 45 days in custody. She’ll receive a credit for 45 days that she’s already served in jail.
Robinson also was ordered to pay Baker’s family $1,745 for funeral expenses.
She was initially charged with murder, but prosecutors said that at trial they’d have to prove Robinson was not acting in self-defense. Inconsistent statements from witnesses would have made it difficult to prove who started the fight, prosecutors said.
On Dec. 4, 2011, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police were called to Hartigan’s, a few blocks from Bank of America Stadium, after receiving a report that several women were fighting. When they arrived, officers found Baker with a deep laceration to her neck. She died at Carolinas Medical Center.
Robinson, a former school bus driver, was found inside the pub and arrested, prosecutors said.
Earlier that night, Baker went to Hartigan’s with her two sisters to celebrate. Her family said she’d just gotten a new apartment and enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College, where she planned to study radiology.
Prosecutors said that, while at the pub, one of Baker’s sisters went to the restroom and “made advances” toward Robinson. When they left the restroom, Robinson’s girlfriend confronted Baker’s sister, but no blows were exchanged.
Baker, her sisters and Robinson later ended up in the restroom together, prosecutors said. Robinson and Baker were seen arguing, and a fight involving several people broke out. That’s when a security guard escorted Baker and her sisters outside.
Witness accounts of what happened next differ.
Prosecutors said the security guard and Baker’s sisters claimed that as Baker stood outside, Robinson walked toward her and swung at Baker’s neck, prompting the sisters to jump on Robinson, punching and kicking her.
But Robinson and another witness, who didn’t know any of the people involved in the fight, said Robinson was jumped as she walked out of the bar, prosecutors said. Robinson told police she was being beaten and grabbed a bottle off the ground and started swinging.
At Thursday’s hearing, family members of both Robinson and Baker were in the courtroom.
Robinson only spoke to say “yes, sir” and “no, sir” to the judge. She clutched a tissue, occasionally wiping tears.
Sharon Carr, Baker’s aunt, addressed the court, describing her niece as an inspiration, a joy and someone who always had a smile on her face. She said only God, Baker and Robinson know what happened the night of the killing.
“I hope this is a learning experience for everybody,” Carr said.