Former bakery leader accused of saying ‘white people are devils’ after killing
By Josh Richman and Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
The July 2007 slaying of Michael Wills, in which two members of Your Black Muslim Bakery have been charged, was tinged with racial overtones, yet those men aren’t charged with a hate crime.
Friends and relatives of Wills, who was white, are concerned that prosecutors haven’t done all they can against defendants Yusuf Bey IV — the last leader of the now-defunct bakery — and Antoine Mackey, one of Bey’s followers charged with pulling an assault rifle’s trigger to end Wills’ life.
But experts say hate-crime cases are particularly difficult to prove and, in this case, would not bring added potential penalties beyond what the defendants already face.
Audio: Bey IV indicted
Devaughndre Broussard, another Bey IV follower who has admitted to killing journalist Chauncey Bailey, told a prosecutor in March that Bey IV and Mackey bragged they killed Wills because of his race. The two saw him walking in North Oakland as they were discussing a string of racially motivated murders in the 1970s known as the Zebra killings.
“They was laughing about and joking about,” Broussard said of Bey IV and Mackey.
Mackey “said he seen the white dude walking down the path … then he shot him,” Broussard added.
Bey IV later said, “‘We got a devil. White people are devils,'” according to Broussard’s statement.
Then Broussard said Bey IV talked about “a devil mentality. A black man can be a devil if he’s against his people.”
Bey IV and his late father, bakery founder Yusuf Bey, have often, while preaching, referred to white people as “devils.” And in telephone calls recorded from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project, Bey IV often made similar statements, referring to “white and Jew devils” and “media devils” whom he claims are trying to destroy him.
Referring to whites as “devils” was among the early teachings of Nation of Islam founders W.D. Fard and Elijah Muhammad. Although the elder Bey broke away from the organization to run what was in effect his own Black Muslim sect, he remained largely a follower of Elijah Muhammad.
Patrick Wills, the victim’s younger brother, said his brother’s family and friends “pretty much all feel the same. Everybody knows the only reason (Michael Wills) was shot was because he was white. So I don’t see any reason why that (hate crime enhancement) should not be part of the charges. For it to not to be there is horrible.”
Although Patrick Wills said he still believed justice would be served with murder convictions without hate crime enhancements, especially if those enhancements would complicate the case.
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Lamiero, the case’s prosecutor, declined to comment, citing a gag order imposed by Superior Court Judge Allen Hymer. But experts say it’s less about what the victim deserves and more about trial strategy.
“Prosecutors tend to be very hesitant to charge hate crime cases … because they’re really, really hard to prove: You have to prove the offender’s motive beyond a reasonable doubt,” explained Associate Professor Phyllis Gerstenfeld, a hate-crime expert who chairs the criminal justice program at Cal State, Stanislaus. “Hate crimes are the only criminal acts that require you to prove motive beyond a reasonable doubt … and we can’t read people’s minds.”
California law requires that someone convicted of first-degree murder that is a also hate crime be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The law also says one of the “special circumstances” that make murder defendants eligible for capital punishment is if the “victim was intentionally killed because of his or her race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin.”
Mackey and Bey IV both are charged with a different special circumstance — that of having committed multiple murders. Prosecutors have not yet said whether they’ll seek the death penalty.
If it won’t add any potential penalties beyond what already is charged, there’s little reason to charge a hate crime in a case like this, said Brian Levin, a Cal State San Bernardino criminal justice professor and a civil-rights attorney who used to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center — among the nation’s foremost hate-group watchdogs.
Charging a hate-crime special circumstance in addition to the multiple-murder special circumstance could make the case far more complex, Levin said.
“When you get to the penalty phase, the defense can throw in just about any mitigating factor that’s relevant,” Levin said. “Unlike the prosecution, the defense can really throw in the kitchen sink virtually.
“Why go through having to interject something that now has to be proven to a particular standard?” Levin asked rhetorically. “It can be highly appropriate for (prosecutors) tactically to avoid overburdening the jury with additional items. Sometimes the cleanest, simplest case is the best.”
LeRue Grim, Broussard’s attorney, said he believes Wills’ slaying was a hate crime.
“The only reasonable interpretation of them referring to (Wills) as a devil is that it represents a feeling of hatred toward him as a white devil. It is a phrase that demonizes a person. To kill someone because of demonization seems as if it is a crime of hate.” Still, he conceded, Broussard’s statement about Bey IV and Mackey’s use of the word devil “is a little thin” to win a hate-crime conviction.
The California Department of Justice reports that although 1,426 hate crime events were reported statewide in 2007, only 443 hate crime cases were referred to prosecutors. Of those, charges were filed in 387 cases — 330 as hate crimes and 57 as crimes not motivated by bias. And of the 241 cases completed in time to be available for the annual report, 110 were hate crime convictions, 103 were other convictions and 28 were not convicted at all.
Independent journalist Bob Butler contributed to this report. Reach Bay Area News Group reporters Josh Richman at firstname.lastname@example.org and Thomas Peele at email@example.com; reach Bob Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.