Jury selection to continue in bakery member’s torture-murder case
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — The inner workings of the former Your Black Muslim Bakery under the leadership of Yusuf Bey IV will be examined as one of his closest followers stands trial on kidnapping and torture charges.
Richard Lewis, 26, is the first member of Bey IV’s inner circle to go to trial in the myriad criminal cases involving the bakery and its 2007 collapse.
Jury selection began last week and is scheduled to continue Monday.
Lewis is accused of taking part in the May 17, 2007, kidnapping of two women and the torturing of one of them in what court records describe as a failed attempt to learn where a drug dealer stashed his proceeds.
Two of Bey IV’s half-brothers, Yusuf Bey V, 23, and Joshua Bey, 22, have pleaded guilty in the case and are expected to testify against Lewis, who faces 13 felony charges and a life sentence if convicted.
Bey IV, 24, is also charged and is scheduled to be tried separately after he first faces murder charges later this year for allegedly ordering journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men killed in the summer of 2007. Another defendant in the kidnapping case, Tamon Halfin, 23, is scheduled to be tried with Bey IV.
During pretrial hearings before Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon last month, Prosecutor Christopher Lamiero said the motivation for the kidnapping was Bey IV’s need for money. The bakery had collapsed into bankruptcy after he stopped paying taxes and was more than $1 million in debt.
Lamiero declined to discuss the case. So did Lewis’ attorney, Patrick Hetrick, who appears to be shaping his defense around the argument that Lewis did not take part in the crime and is being framed by Joshua Bey and Yusuf Bey V in exchange for plea deals.
One of the women testified during a preliminary hearing that they were pulled over on Interstate 580 in Oakland by men they thought were police officers after leaving a bingo parlor. Bags were placed over their heads; they were taken to a nearby abandoned house.
One of the women testified she was tied to a chair, the bag still over her head, and repeatedly beaten. The attackers demanded to know where someone named Tim kept his money. She said they threatened to burn her with a curling iron.
The other woman was reportedly held at gunpoint outside the house in a former police car belonging to a private security company Bey owned. An Oakland police officer on routine patrol saw that car and stopped to investigate. The defendants saw him and fled; the officer rescued the women.
Detectives found Joshua Bey’s cell phone at the scene and recovered the security car. They did not make arrests until Aug. 3, 2007 — the day after Chauncey Bailey was killed, allegedly at Bey IV’s order.
Three days after the arrests, police left Bey IV, Halfin and Joshua Bey alone in an interrogation room with a hidden video camera running.
On the recording of the conversation, Bey IV admonished Halfin for not killing the police officer who rescued the victims and said the defendants needed to “get our stories straight.” He said the victims never saw their attackers and if the defendants “don’t say (expletive),” he thought the case would be dropped.
Lewis and Bey V’s lawyers argued that because their clients were not in the room with the hidden video camera, they should be tried separately from those who were.
Bey IV said on the tape that he was happy to have “some San Francisco muscle” under his control, an apparent reference to Lewis, Devaughndre Broussard, and Antoine Mackey, who had all recently joined the organization and were from San Francisco.
Broussard has confessed to killing Bailey and another man on Bey IV’s orders. Mackey is Bey IV’s co-defendant on triple murder charges.
Court documents in the kidnapping case allege that Bey IV learned that the women knew where a man identified only as Tim hid a stash of money from a convicted drug dealer, Johnny Anton. Anton gave prosecutors two statements last summer and has since disappeared.
Lamiero said in court that Anton may fear for his life. Hetrick said he wants Anton to testify because in his statements he did not say he saw Lewis when he met the others outside the bingo parlor as they waited for the women.
Lewis has taken an active role in his defense, constantly whispering to Hetrick during hearings. At one point, Reardon told Lewis to stop trying to communicate with him directly.
“Mr. Lewis you have a lawyer. Talk to him. Stop trying to talk to me,” the judge said.