Suspect in Antar Bey’s slaying found guilty
By Paul T. Rosynsky, Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — Alfonza Phillips, 22, was found guilty Monday of murdering Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Antar Bey during a failed evening carjacking at a gas station in North Oakland, an Alameda County jury decided.
Ignoring the suggestion that Bey’s killing was the product of a well-planned assassination, the jury of 10 men and two women sided with the police and prosecution, who said Phillips killed Bey for the 22-inch rims, which outfitted the leader’s black BMW 745i.
The jury found Phillips guilty on three counts, including first-degree murder, attempted carjacking and possession of a firearm by a felon. They also found him guilty of enhancements, including use of and discharge of a firearm. Phillips, who will be sentenced Dec. 14, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.“Justice was served,” Deputy District Attorney Colleen McMahon said.The jury came to its conclusion after two weeks of testimony, which included an eyewitness identifying Phillips as the shooter, a police informant saying Phillips had confessed the killing to him and a fingerprint analysis, which matched a fingerprint found at the scene with that of Phillips’ left middle finger.The jury’s verdict also put aside — at least in this case — an undercurrent of suspicion about the Oakland Police Department’s detective bureau. The unit has come under scrutiny for its handling of the murder case against a bakery member who police said gunned down OaklandPost Editor Chauncey Bailey.Oakland’s detective unit refuses to tape interviews it has with suspects until after the suspect has confessed or given relevant information in a case. Only then do detectives turn on a tape recorder.
In the current case, the jury was asked to believe Phillips’ girlfriend, who claimed police threatened her into telling them that Phillips confessed the murder of Bey to her.
Althea Foy was heard during the trial on a tape recording, telling detectives that she continually asked Phillips if he killed Bey until he confessed. She said on the tape that she heard rumors that her boyfriend killed the bakery leader and wanted to hear it straight from him.
But on the witness stand, Foy said she was forced into pinning the murder on her boyfriend because police threatened to slap her and told her if she did not identify Phillips as the murderer, “a swarm of Muslims” would come after her and her family.
McMahon and police denied the claim, but it was left to the jury to determine the truth because police never recorded the initial conversation they had with Foy.
However, Foy’s denials that she was Phillips’ girlfriend and other testimony she gave on the witness stand came into question after McMahon played a tape recording of a phone call Phillips made to Foy from jail.
In the tape, Phillips told Foy to “stay quiet.” He also sounded jovial and repeatedly referred to her as his girlfriend, ending the phone call by repeating “I love you.”
McMahon, who spoke to jurors after the verdict was read, said some told her that the tape helped them decide Phillips’ fate.
“Some of them said it was helpful,” she said.
Defense Attorney Leonard Ulfelder, however, argued that the evidence presented against his client did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Phillips killed Bey.
During the trial, Ulfelder attempted to show how the fingerprint analysis might be flawed and argued that testimony from the police informant could not be trusted because the informant was a criminal simply looking to cut a deal with authorities.
Ulfelder refused to comment on the case after the verdict was read.
Ulfelder had attempted to convince the jury that the killing of Bey was not a simple carjacking, but a result of a complicated power struggle within the Bey family.
Although limited in the amount of information he could present to the jury about the Bey family feud, Ulfelder did on several occasions suggest that the bakery’s family was violent. At one point he compared them to a fictional Mafia family, the “Sopranos.”
And at one point, Ulfelder vaguely compared the killing of Bey to that of Bailey, telling the jury it was a “blatant murder that we have all come too familiar with.”
But none of the questions raised by Ulfelder could bring into doubt the case presented by McMahon.
In the end, the jury found Phillips guilty of all counts brought against him for the murder.