PERPETRATED BY NOW-CUSTODIAL PARENT
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 10, 2017) — The case of “Michelle Robinson,” who lost custody of her toddler daughter to the child’s father, Eric Crutchfield, early last year, began with his assaulting her when the child was still an infant.
Robinson received a copy of a 911 audio-recording resulting from a call made by her second daughter on March 26, 2015 after she heard evidence of an assault against her mother from inside the closed door of her room.
The daughter is now 18 years old.
Robinson provided a photo of her bruised upper arm (shown above) following the assault as well as damage to furniture and other furnishings which were reported to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD).
“He broke my cell phone and I was unable to complete a 911 call. At the time I had no idea my daughter had 911 on the line,” Robinson told us of the altercation.
Although Robinson asked that Crutchfield be prosecuted, law enforcement declined to conduct an arrest even after she filed additional complaints. She was granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) on November 17, 2015 which became permanent on December 10, 2015. The dates of her additional complaints are June 12, 2015 for assault; November 18, 2015 for a TRO violation; and November 30, 2015 for a TRO violation.
“He admitted to violating the TRO on 12/2/2015 in court during the hearing on 12/10/15, but nothing was done,” Robinson told The Post & Email.
On December 20, 2015, Robinson took her daughter to see her father on the occasion of her first birthday. A provision of California Penal Code states of existing restraining orders, “The terms and conditions of the protection order remain enforceable, notwithstanding the acts of the parties, and may be changed only by order of the court.”
After a few minutes of interaction outside of his home, Robinson and Crutchfield began to argue and entered into a physical altercation. During that time, their daughter was secured in her car seat in Robinson’s parked car.
Robinson said that she extricated herself from Crutchfield, got into her vehicle, and as she prepared to drive away, Crutchfield bit her on the shoulder, leaving a mark.
She drove to the LASD to report it but was told by deputies that because of where it occurred, she needed to file the report with the LAPD after seeking medical treatment.
She dropped off her daughter with her eldest daughter, who was 20 at the time, visited the Kaiser emergency room and received treatment, then went to the LAPD. LAPD Deputy Hillinger photographed the bite and obtained her report, completing the process in the early-morning hours of December 21, 2015.
The LAPD’s Det. Sean Horton was assigned to launch an investigation into Robinson’s complaint. Strangely, Crutchfield was never prosecuted, but Robinson learned that he had apparently been pressured by Horton to file a complaint against her, causing her to face prosecution for “spousal abuse” and “battery.”
Horton additionally made a referral to DCFS on the assumption that Robinson had been the “perpetrator” of “domestic violence” and was “seeking custody,” consistent with a provision of California family law.
Hillinger had made a referral to the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) after his encounter with Robinson. As a result, in February 2016, DCFS opened an inquiry that included the December 20 incident which it closed without taking action.
In March, a second inquiry was opened at Horton’s request after he reportedly told DCFS social worker Kristen Gonzalez that he possessed “video evidence” of the December 20, 2015 altercation showing Robinson to be the “aggressor.”
Court transcripts show that Gonzalez accepted Horton’s word of the existence of the video without having viewed it herself, largely basing her eventual decision to ask a judge to detain Robinson’s youngest daughter on Horton’s claim.
“Actually, Hillinger was mandated to report to DCFS because my daughter was present,” Robinson told us. “I do not believe his intent was to identify me as the perpetrator. It was Horton who later made that claim. Hillinger just made a general report.”
Robinson had had court-ordered, permanent, full custody of her daughter up to the time that the altercation occurred and afterward, when DCFS became involved.
Robinson maintains that Horton committed perjury during an initial custody trial on July 27, 2016 and has filed a complaint with the LAPD pursuant to his testimony.
On March 4, 2016, a warrant for the detention of Robinson’s daughter was signed by Edelman Court Judge Teresa Sullivan. Six days later, Robinson received a phone call during business hours requesting that she bring her daughter to DCFS offices. She complied with the request and turned over her daughter, believing that she would be placed temporarily in foster care.
However, she was placed with her father, who was eventually granted full, permanent custody. Robinson received supervised visitation for which she is obligated to pay a monitor, and, for financial reasons as well as from difficulties in finding a suitable monitor, she has not seen her daughter in more than ten months.
While she has learned that her daughter has been diagnosed as having a developmental delay, she has been excluded from all educational and therapeutic decisions and has no idea if the child, who is now close to three years old, is receiving early intervention services.
In April, the Edelman Children’s Court approved a permanent restraining order on Crutchfield’s part against Robinson which prevents any contact between them, even to discuss their daughter’s welfare.
Robinson is additionally concerned about her daughter’s living arrangement, which she described in an earlier interview as not conducive to a young child and lacking in a crib and room of her own.
Robinson obtained the recording of the 911 call from the L.A. County Public Defender’s Office, which obtained it from LASD by subpoena in the course of its defense of her in the domestic abuse case in July.
“I have reported the existence of the call to DCFS, LAPD, and every law enforcement agency and all agencies even tangentially involved in this matter,” Robinson told The Post & Email. When we asked why she believes Crutchfield was not arrested as a result of his 2015 record, she responded, “My best guess is that LAPD would not arrest him because it would conflict with their commitment to prosecute/persecute me. I suspect that after my report on 12/20/15 Horton was forwarded related reports after the fact and didn’t move to make an arrest of Crutchfield.”
Further, Robinson stated, “I contacted the district attorney’s office. I was told that detectives influence whether or not a person is prosecuted and that ALL of my reports were deemed not enough evidence to prosecute. An LASD detective Jones told me that he was told to back off any case for RO due to the ‘murder investigation’ that took precedence.”
Robinson faced trial in July 2016 on the domestic abuse charges which resulted in a mistrial. The case was reheard this past July, after which she was acquitted of “spousal abuse” but convicted of the lesser charge of “battery.” The video was aired but, according to Robinson, was incomplete.
Her sentence consists of:
No jail time
Restraining Order against her for Crutchfield
10 days community labor
Domestic Violence classes for one year
No weapons possession.
She has appealed the verdict and received notification as to the public defender who will represent her, although no time frame for a hearing has been specified.
Robinson has also filed an appeal of Commissioner Steff Padilla’s ruling which awarded temporary custody to Crutchfield in October of last year with the California Second District Court of Appeals. The court is awaiting documentation from Edelman pertaining to Judge Frank Menetrez’s final custody order issued on April 25, 2017.
Of the 911 call, Robinson said, “I heard the call for the first time when it was mailed to me by the Public Defender’s Office. I had declined to listen to it during the spousal abuse trial because I had lived it and was too fragile to hear my daughter have to make that call. It’s still hard to relive.”
Robinson used an app to obliterate her address and her daughter’s cell phone number from the audio, although The Post & Email was provided and heard the original before the change was made.