Former Long Beach police detective Yvonne Robinson was sentenced on Wednesday to two years probation for leaking confidential police information to a known gang member.
The 13-year police veteran listened in court on Wednesday as she was told the felony conviction against her would stand, solidifying the fact that her career in law enforcement is over.
On Wednesday, after handing down the sentence Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench said, “This case just saddens me. It just does. A career that was sought after was destroyed through Ms. Robinson’s own conduct.”
Robinson, 50, was found guilty earlier this month by a 12-person jury of leaking details from multiple police investigations to members of the Baby Insane Crips street gang.
During the criminal trial Robinson was described by her former colleagues as the most knowledgeable officer on Long Beach gang culture and history. Throughout the trial Robinson maintained her innocence as her defense attorney, Case Barnett, painted her as a competent police officer who grew up in the community and was being targeted by a police department who saw her as being too close to the gang culture.
“Ms. Robinson has given her life to the city of Long Beach,” Barnett said during the sentencing hearing.
Before the criminal trial began this past July, Robinson was offered the option to plead guilty to the felony charge without facing any jail time according to the prosecution. At sentencing Robinson asked the felony to be reduced to a misdemeanor, but the prosecution said that Robinson blatantly skirted the truth in front of the jury during her testimony.
“Since the trial began, she has lied on the stand,” said Deputy District Attorney Arisa Mattson. The prosecution argued that Robinson lied to detectives about meeting with a known suspect at a home in North Long Beach. That exchange was caught on surveillance and in a wiretap call that was played for a jury who deliberated less than one day before returning a guilty verdict.
Robinson was arrested in 2013 and charged with the conspiracy to obstruct justice. In recorded wiretap calls Robinson called a known suspect in a gang assault investigation and said she had to meet him in person. That suspect, Prentice Jones, was also charged on a similar felony count with Robinson. Jones, also known as Long Beach rapper P-Nice, pleaded no contest in 2017 to a conspiracy charge and was sentenced to three years of probation, court records show.
In recorded wiretap calls, Jones referred to Robinson as “the cop lady” who updated him on ongoing police investigations into the gang. In one call Jones described how Robinson allegedly gave him insight into the murder investigation of Frank Castro Jr., who was shot and killed in Long Beach in 2009.
Five suspects were involved in the shooting and detectives knew that they were affiliated with the Baby Insane Crips. Jones was not a suspect in the shooting but described to gang member Donovan Halcomb how police wanted to question the accomplices in the murder to get to the shooters. Prosecutors said that type of information could only have come from a police officer, the type of investigative tactic that was not easily disseminated into the community.
On the witness stand, Robinson admitted she told Jones that all the suspects should turn themselves in to police, but she didn’t press Jones on what he knew about the shooting. The prosecution said Robinson’s interaction with Jones did not end there.
The two were related by marriage. A surprise witness during the trial also testified Robinson once said she had a sexual relationship with Jones, but defense attorneys disputed this as a last-minute ploy by prosecutors to influence the case.
That witness threw the entire case into a different direction from where the case first started based on the evidence presented to the prosecution by the LBPD, said Barnett.
“We consider the Long Beach Police Department as part of the prosecution team,” said Barnett after the sentencing hearing. That critical information about an alleged affair was kept by the LBPD said Barnett and sprung on the jury and the defense in the middle of the trial.
Detectives with LBPD suspected they had a leak in 2012 when they caught word on a recorded wiretap call. Detectives shared the information with only a small circle of officers as they sought out the “dirty cop” that was feeding information to a street gang, according to testimony in the case.
To flush out the leak, detectives published an internal report about an assault case that named several members of the Baby Insane Crips. Police then notified Robinson about the investigation. The victim in the assault was a known police informant and a suspect in a previous case that Robinson worked on several years prior. Detectives said that the report omitted key facts about the case and Robinson was the only person who had access to the case file.
Not long after she viewed the report, Robinson called Jones and met with him at a home in North Long Beach. She claimed they met over a price dispute on a tattoo for her daughter that only Jones could resolve. The prosecution argued that a few days after that meeting Jones repeated the key details from the assault report in another wiretap call.
When detectives finally approached Robinson with pointed questions about her interactions with Jones, she realized that she was a suspect. She claimed she was interrogating Jones about the assault case, but did not file a police report about their interaction. On another wiretap call, Robinson confided in another police officer about being questioned on her tactics as a police officer.
“They thought she was a gang member. That’s where their minds went when some poser gang member talked about having some sort of inside connect,” Barnett said after the sentencing hearing. The detectives narrowed in on Robinson even though Jones could have been inflating his ego talking about how he had his “inside connect” at the department said Barnett.
“She made mistakes,” said Barnett outside the courtroom. “But that’s not criminal conduct.”
Robinson will also need to serve 80 hours community service, but her probation will not require her to check in with a probation officer. Her attorney plans to appeal the conviction and ask for a new trial.
Robinson declined to comment outside the courtroom.
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.