Former Long Beach Police Detective Yvonne Robinson denied any wrongdoing on the witness stand Friday in the criminal case where she’s accused of leaking confidential information to the Baby Insane Crip street gang. Police witnesses called to testify in the case say Robinson was an expert on Long Beach gangs and had a strong connection to the community that fed her information about gang culture.
Which is why prosecutors find it hard to believe that she did not know she booked a rap group with a gang affiliation to perform at a Polytechnic High School basketball game more than a decade ago.
Robinson booked local rapper P-Nice to perform at a game sometime in 2009. In 2013, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged P-Nice, real name Prentice Jones, and Robinson with obstruction of justice. Robinson is accused of leaking confidential information to Jones, who prosecutors say is a member of the Baby Insane Crip street gang and who helped the gang stay ahead of the Long Beach Police Department’s ongoing investigation into the 2009 murder of Frank Castro Jr. and a separate gang beatdown.
In recorded wiretap calls, Jones refers to his “inside connect” at the department, which prosecutors maintain was Robinson.
The prosecution and Robinson presented two alternate timelines to the jury on when Robinson first met Jones.
On the witness stand, Robinson says she met Jones around 2009 or 2010 when she booked his rap group, the P.E. Boys, to perform at Poly High School. Deputy District Attorney Arisa Mattson asked Robinson if she did any type of background research on Jones before she booked him. Did she find his arrest record where he self-identified as a member of the Baby Insane Crips or see the photos police took of his gang tattoos?
Robinson said she didn’t have access to those documents. “It was not my job at the time,” Robinson said.
Jones’ gang affiliation must have come up when Robinson looked through his online music videos, said Mattson.
“You didn’t Google him? Obviously, you must have looked up something? Didn’t you want to make sure he wasn’t making gangsta rap?”
“I didn’t know him to be a gang member at the time,” Robinson said.
Mattson offered an alternative timeline to the jury of when Jones met Robinson.
In 2008, Robinson showed her then-coworker Detective Satwan Johnson a picture of a man on her phone, according to the prosecution. She said she was “fooling around” with the man, Johnson testified on Friday, only he didn’t realize the man on the phone was Jones. It wasn’t until 2019 when Johnson and another detective ran into Jones at a juice bar that he put it all together.
However, prosecutors say Johnson sat on that information until earlier this week when he called Mattson to ask if he was going to be called as a witness in the case. Mattson questioned him about what he knew about Jones and that’s when he revealed the cellphone photo incident.
Defense attorney Case Barnett asked Johnson why it took him so long to come forward with this startling revelation.
“I thought detectives already knew,” said Johnson. “I did not think it was a significant statement when I made it.”
Barnett asked Johnson to describe this photograph from 2008 that was briefly shown to him on a cellphone that is now so vividly clear in his memory.
“It was a picture of a dark-skinned male, Black,” said Johnson.
“You were the only one who had this piece of evidence,” said Barnett.
“There was no way to relay that to the case,” Johnson said regarding Robinson’s criminal case. He said that all the press coverage was on Robinson and not on Jones, so he never saw his face.
“You told no one and did nothing with it?” asked Barnett after Johnson allegedly saw Jones at the juice bar and realized he was in a relationship with Robinson.
Johnson maintained he didn’t think it was significant. He and other police officers have testified that Robinson was an expert on Long Beach gang culture. Rumors swirled around the department that she was sleeping with a gang member, but that wasn’t his concern because he was not involved in the case.
The prosecution says alarm bells should have been going off for Robinson when Jones approached her in 2012 to discuss a press release from the Long Beach Police Department about the Castro murder investigation. Five composite sketches of the suspects were released, but at the time investigators knew their names and wanted to see if the press release would spur chatter over the department’s wiretaps.
Jones asked Robinson if the suspects in the murder investigation should turn themselves in. Mattson asked why Robinson didn’t push harder on Jones if he had information about a murder.
“I was not on duty,” Robinson said.
The same year, Jones asked Robinson how he could be removed from a gang injunction. Robinson testified that she emailed the officer who oversaw the department’s gang injunction files sometime in May 2012, which prosecutors say is around the time police arrested four Baby Insane Crip members in the murder investigation. Robinson maintained that she wasn’t aware of the investigation.
Robinson did admit to discussing an assault investigation with Jones around June 2012. Jones was a suspect in the gang beatdown of a person who cooperated with police. Detectives fed Robinson this assault report because they suspected she was the leak referenced on the wiretap calls.
Robinson testified she met Jones at a home in Long Beach where her daughter was getting a tattoo and she was being overcharged by someone Jones knew. She asked him to meet her at the home because Robinson wanted Jones to sort out the issue. At that meeting, Robinson asked Jones pointed questions about his involvement in any gang beatdowns and other details found in the assault report. He denied being involved.
“You called and met with a named suspect?” Mattson asked.
“Correct,” Robinson said.
When Robinson admitted to discussing an ongoing investigation with Jones, Mattson said, “That is very inappropriate of you as a police officer to question Prentice Jones about” the report, isn’t it?
“It is not,” Robinson said.
Later, Mattson asked Robinson if she knew why she was being charged with obstruction of justice.
“Yes,” Robinson said, “which I did not do.”
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.