Woman tells of being beaten, threatened
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — The victim in a kidnapping and torture case linked to Your Black Muslim Bakery ended two days of emotional testimony Tuesday, telling jurors she was beaten and threatened with being burned alive.
“They hit me twice in the head,” she said, stopping to sob. Then she was hit in the knee “with something real solid,” she told the jury of eight women and two men.
The attackers demanded money and for her to tell them where a drug dealer — from whom she sometimes bought cocaine — kept his stash. They told her she would be “taken up on the hill,” which she said she believed meant she would be killed.
She said she had $1 in her purse and no knowledge of where the dealer hid his money.
“I didn’t think I was going home. I thought I was going up on a hill and (was going to) die,” she said. At one point after being beaten, she said she raised her cuffed hands under the bag to her face and felt blood.
Jurors were shown a photo of the woman being loaded into an ambulance. Her face and torso were bloody. Her hair was matted in blood. Her head was cut. She testified that she received numerous stitches.
Richard Lewis, a bakery follower being tried on 13 felony counts, sat quietly at the defense table taking notes as the woman recounted the events of May 17, 2007. His lawyer contends Lewis wasn’t at the crime scene and is being framed.
The woman, whose name is being withheld by Bay Area News Group at the request of prosecutors, described being stopped on Interstate 580 by what she thought was a police cruiser. She said a garbage bag was pulled over her head by masked men with guns, and she was driven to a house where she was handcuffed and beaten.
Her mother, who was with her and suffers from dementia, was held in a car outside the house, cowering under a blanket.
The woman said she never saw the faces of the attackers. Prosecutors contend Lewis was one of them, along with four others. He faces a life sentence without parole if convicted. Two others have pleaded guilty and are scheduled to testify against him. Two more, including former bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV, are yet to be tried.
One of the men threatened to burn her with a curling iron, she said. Another asked her if she smelled gasoline — which she inferred as a threat that she would be burned alive.
The woman, wearing a wool hat and at times slouching in the witness chair, broke into tears when she described the blows to her head. A few feet away in Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon’s courtroom was the red wooden chair she said she was forced to sit in.
The handcuffs she said were forced on her were displayed on a white board. The woman said her rescue came quickly. She heard glass breaking and realized suddenly her attackers had fled — and through a hole in the bag on her head, she saw what she thought was a “real police car” outside. It was an Oakland patrol officer who happened on the scene.
Still handcuffed and nearly naked — most of her clothes had been pulled off — she ran outside, screaming, she said. The patrol officer, she told jurors, “is my guardian angel.” She said she later took him flowers and a card at police headquarters.
Assistant Alameda County District Attorney Christopher Lamiero contends that the kidnapping of the woman was a desperate attempt by Bey IV to rob drug dealers in an attempt to pay off debts that eventually drove the bakery into bankruptcy.
Lewis’ attorney, Patrick Hetrick, picked through a statement the woman gave detectives while she was at Highland Hospital following the attack, pointing out inconsistencies. The victim said at the hospital that she saw two men climbing over a wall when she ran from the house.
She told the jury she saw one man and there were gaps in her memory that she attributed to shock “and being hit in the head.”