Lawyers laid into their closing arguments on Monday in the criminal case against former Long Beach Police Detective Yvonne Robinson. Now, the case that revolves around wiretapped calls, confidential police reports, surprise witness testimony, gang colors and a red dress is in the hands of the jury.
Robinson, 50, worked for the Long Beach Police Department for 13 years. She is facing an obstruction of justice charge for allegedly leaking confidential information to the Baby Insane Crip street gang. Prentice Jones, also known as Long Beach rapper P-Nice, is related to Robinson by marriage and according to the prosecution called her his “inside connect” during wiretap calls with other members of the Baby Insane Crip gang.
Robinson and Jones are named co-defendants in the case, but Jones pleaded no contest in 2017 to a conspiracy charge and was sentenced to three years of probation, court records show.
The conspiracy charge now pending against Robinson revolves around wiretap calls and her recommendation to the LBPD that Jones be removed from the city’s gang injunction. The prosecution says even though Robinson was knowledgeable about local gangs, she still recommended Jones to be removed from the injunction without looking into his criminal record.
“She is sympathizing with the gang members,” said Deputy District Attorney Arisa Mattson during her closing arguments on Monday.
Robinson is accused of feeding information to Jones about a murder investigation and an investigation into a gang beatdown of a police informant.
Detectives allege they stumbled onto the leak when Jones called Baby Insane Crip member Donovan Halcomb to discuss the 2009 murder investigation of Frank Castro Jr. During that call, Jones referenced “the police lady” who updated him on the murder investigation.
According to prosecutors, Robinson and Jones talked several times starting on March 26, 2012. That was the same day detectives released a press release with five composite sketches of suspects in the murder.
By June 2012, detectives narrowed in on Robinson as the potential leak. There was the gang beatdown of James Welch, who cooperated with police, and was kicked out of the Baby Insane Crip for naming names. Jones was part of the beating according to detectives. A report on the assault was written by detectives and Robinson was notified, because she interviewed Welch in a previous case.
Prosecutors said that Robinson already knew about the beatdown, but she viewed the report anyway. Only Robinson and a small circle of detectives were aware of the assault report and after she viewed the file it was locked. Detectives wanted to see if that information would appear on the wiretapped calls.
In a call to Halcomb, Jones repeated the details of the report.
“No one else is going to be giving that information to Jones,” Mattson said, pointing to Robinson as the sole source on the report.
In her closing arguments, Mattson referenced the movie “Ocean’s 11” to clarify the conspiracy charge. The heist movie involved an elaborate scheme to steal money from a casino bank vault.
“It’s a big conspiracy that 11 people agreed to,” said Mattson. All 11 people did not walk into the vault, but they had a common plan no matter how big or small their actions were.
But the case against Robinson is much simpler.
“It’s not rocket science,” said Mattson.
Robinson and Jones, she alleged, were involved in an agreement, one that involved her giving the gang a leg up on the tactics detectives used in their investigation and that allowed some suspects to flee the state.
Mattson said that Robinson’s defense could be summed up as, “Everybody is lying but her.”
The detectives called to testify and the Baby Insane Crip members on the wiretap calls discussed Robinson’s role in the conspiracy, said Mattson.
“Her version is so unreasonable,” said Mattson.
Robinson worked for several years as a detective in the juvenile investigation bureau. As a Long Beach native, Robinson grew up in the neighborhood where she worked as a police officer. The defense argued that the prosecution has focused on Robinson’s familiarity with the community as some type of admission of guilt.
Earlier in the trial, while Robinson was on the witness stand, Mattson asked her what colors the Baby Insane Crip gang wear.
Robinson said red.
Mattson noted to the jury, “And you’re wearing a red dress and red mask, correct?”
Robinson didn’t immediately respond. The prosecution didn’t pursue the line of questioning after Judge Lisa Lench asked for a sidebar.
On Monday during his closing arguments, defense attorney Case Barnett said that type of questioning made him upset, but it spoke to the prosecution’s narrow view with the facts in the case. He said the red dress is an example of the prosecution and the Long Beach Police Department’s attempts to misdirect the case against Robinson.
“This is the prosecution team’s perspective,” said Barnett. “This red dress is the case in a nutshell.”
Details repeated by Jones during one wiretap call were already shared by other members of the Baby Insane Crip over social media. Ronald Kirkwood, a former Baby Insane Crip, testified that he cooperated with police under his own freewill. But during the trial Kirkwood admitted that police showed him his phone’s GPS data that put him at the scene of the 2009 Castro murder. While Kirkwood was not one of the shooters, he could have been looking at charges as an accessory.
Barnett asked the jury to not consider Kirkwood as a witness who happened to volunteer information to police out of the goodness of his heart. Kirkwood called Jones a high-ranking member with the Baby Insane Crip.
But Barnett described Jones as a wannabe rapper who tried to appear like he had inside information with the police department. Jones specifically referenced his sister-in-law when he referred to his “inside connect” but that was all talk, said Barnett. Robinson testified she told Jones that if he knew suspects in a shooting that they should turn themselves in to police and then she asked him pointed questions based on a confidential police report during a separate conversation.
Barnett called that “inappropriate, but a far cry from illegal.”
On the witness stand, Robinson tried to distance herself from Jones even though the two were related by marriage. The prosecution said they were at one time involved in a sexual relationship.
Detective Satwan Johnson, Robinson’s former coworker, testified that Robinson had a sexual relationship with Jones sometime in 2008. That revelation poked a major hole in Robinson’s claim that she did not meet Jones until sometime in 2009 or 2010.
Johnson testified that Robinson showed him a picture of Jones on her phone in 2008 and said that she was “messing around” with him. She didn’t give a name. It wasn’t until 2019 when Johnson and another detective saw Jones at a juice bar in Long Beach that he connected Jones to Robinson. Barnett called this claim farfetched, like a “bolt of lightning” that could conveniently crack this case wide open for the prosecution.
“It’s desperate. Because the prosecution team can’t prove their case,” said Barnett. Robinson denied ever having a relationship with Jones.
Mattson said Robinson’s version of events doesn’t make sense. Robinson called Jones multiple times and those calls coincided with the release of a composite sketch of multiple suspects in the murder investigation, calls came after the arrests of Baby Insane Crip members and after Robinson viewed a confidential police report that named Jones a suspect in an assault. In one recorded call, Robinson said she needed to meet Jones in person. She said it was over a dispute on a tattoo price for her daughter that only Jones could resolve in person.
Even after Robinson read the assault report that named Jones a suspect, she called him to meet in person.
“She’s tainting the investigation,” said Mattson. “It’s not just inappropriate, it’s an actual obstruction of the due administration of the law.”
The jury was given the case on Monday afternoon and they were excused for the day shortly before 4 p.m. They are expected to return Tuesday morning for deliberation.
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