Jury finds ex-detective guilty of leaking police secrets to Long Beach street gang

A unanimous jury on Tuesday found former Long Beach Police Detective Yvonne Robinson guilty on a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge, nearly eight years after the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office first accused her of leaking confidential information to a member of the Baby Insane Crips street gang.

Robinson, 50, grew up in the city of Long Beach and attended Poly High School. She rose through the ranks at the Long Beach Police Department over a 13-year period and was a constant fixture at local events, representing a community she felt did not see enough Black women serving as police officers.

Over a six-day trial, jurors listened to testimony from witnesses who described Long Beach gang culture, police investigation tactics, wiretap phone calls and Robinson’s role with the department—one that prosecutors say spiraled into helping the Baby Insane Crips get a leg up on two ongoing investigations.

In a statement after the verdict, the Long Beach Police Department said Robinson was convicted of “despicable actions which do not represent the high values, ethics and integrity that our officers must uphold.”

“Justice was served today,” LBPD spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said in an email.

Robinson served as a detective in the juvenile investigation bureau for over seven years and, during the trial, her former coworkers at the LBPD described her as integral to forming the department’s gang detail. But that familiarity with street gangs became a liability, argued the prosecution.

In 2013, Robinson was arrested and charged with being the “inside connect” for a member of the Baby Insane Crips. She was also fired that year.

“There is zero tolerance for an employee who cannot meet our high standards of professionalism and accountability,” Chavarria said. “Robinson is an example of an employee who has failed to meet these standards and in fact, violated the public’s trust with her criminal conduct.“

She was charged with her co-defendant Prentice Jones, also known as Long Beach rapper P-Nice. In recorded wiretap calls, Jones referred to Robinson as “the cop lady” who updated him on ongoing police investigations into the gang.

Jurors listened as 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.

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.

Jones pleaded no contest in 2017 to a conspiracy charge and was sentenced to three years of probation, court records show.

Robinson was also accused of feeding Jones information about an assault investigation. Jones was named as a suspect in that case and detectives said it was part of a gang beatdown of a police informant.

The report on the assault was fed to Robinson by detectives in June 2012 as part of the department’s internal investigation. Several days after Robinson accessed the report on her work computer she met with Jones at a house in North Long Beach, prosecutors said. On the witness stand, Robinson denied feeding Jones any confidential information but admitted to asking him pointed questions related to the assault investigation.

Throughout the trial, Robinson maintained she did nothing wrong in her interactions with Jones. On cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Arisa Mattson asked Robinson to clarify that she called Jones to meet in person.

“You called and met with a named suspect?” Mattson asked.

“Correct,” 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.”

During the trial, the prosecution called several police witnesses who testified about how they stumbled on the “dirty cop” in the department who they said was talking to a gang. In May 2012, police arrested several members of the Baby Insane Crip street gang in connection to the Castro murder. On the same day, detectives said Jones and Robinson called each other multiple times throughout the day.

Robinson testified that Jones approached her to help him get off the city’s database of known gang members included in its gang injunction. She argued that he was bugging her with numerous requests. In emails to the officer in charge of the department’s gang injunction files, Robinson said Jones was trying to turn his life around and was trying to pursue his music career.

Robinson said that Jones’ criminal file was thin and contained a single field investigation card, the type of document police officers write when they interact with someone who is suspected of being in a gang. Prosecutors said that wasn’t the whole story, because Jones was arrested at a gang meeting in a park. That should have stopped Robinson from recommending an active gang member be removed from the injunction.

The prosecution found it hard to believe that a detective with extensive knowledge about gang culture in Long Beach did not know that Jones was a gang member. The prosecution also called Robinson’s former coworker Detective Satwan Johnson to testify in court that she admitted to having a sexual relationship with Jones.

Robinson denied the allegation and the defense called Johnson’s last-minute testimony a suspicious development in the case.

Still, the jury listened to Johnson describe how Robinson showed him a picture on her phone sometime in 2008 of a man she said she was “fooling around” with. She didn’t give a name and it wasn’t until 2019 that Johnson ran into Jones at a juice bar where another detective pointed him out as Robinson’s co-defendant in the case.

Johnson said it suddenly made sense that the man on the phone was Jones. But Robinson’s defense attorney Case Barnett said that Johnson did nothing with the information until the eve of trial. Johnson testified that he thought it was common knowledge about the relationship.

After the prosecution revealed Johnson’s startling testimony, Barnett in a phone call described it as a “last-minute grasp.”

Robinson was found guilty by a jury of six men and six women on Tuesday afternoon in a Downtown Los Angeles criminal courtroom. She was not immediately taken into custody at the request of her defense attorney. She will be sentenced on Aug. 25.

Robinson declined to comment after the verdict was read.

Prosecution says ex-Long Beach detective had sexual relationship with gang member

Editor’s note: This story was updated with a statement from the Long Beach Police Department.

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