Chauncey Bailey Project

Judge denies Yusuf Bey IV’s request to be his own lawyer

Yusuf Bey IV, with attorney Lorna Brown, speaks to the media in front of Your Black Muslim Bakery in 2005. (Oakland Tribune)
Yusuf Bey IV, with attorney Lorna Brown, speaks to the media in front of Your Black Muslim Bakery in 2005. (Oakland Tribune)

Yusuf Bey IV, with attorney Lorna Brown, speaks to the media in front of Your Black Muslim Bakery in 2005. (Oakland Tribune)

By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

OAKLAND — A Superior Court judge denied Yusuf Bey IV’s request Tuesday to represent himself against real estate fraud charges, saying Bey IV could not be trusted with special privileges after allegations he tried to have witnesses in an unrelated triple-murder case killed.

Judge Robert McGuiness said that the right of “witnesses to life and limb” outweighed Bey IV’s right to act as his own lawyer. Suspicions that Bey IV ordered a follower to kill witnesses against him is “an attack on the core integrity of any trial process,” the judge said.

Bey IV, speaking to the judge before the ruling, said claims that he had ordered witnesses slain and that the Your Black Muslim Bakery he once ran was a criminal organization are “very disrespectful” and “not true at all.”

Bey IV is suspected of using his former lawyer, Lorna Brown, to smuggle the names of two witnesses in the murder case to a man who called himself the “No. 1 soldier” from the bakery, a now-defunct business and black empowerment organization in Oakland.

The real estate fraud case is just one of the cases pending against Bey IV, who is charged with ordering the murders of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men.

Prosecutors — who didn’t object to Bey IV’s motion but wanted his phone calls and correspondence monitored — described the attempt at self-representation as a ruse to direct his followers to commit crimes and to start a website on his behalf.

Bey IV, who remains in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, would have access to unmonitored phone calls if he were to represent himself.

McGuiness said he relied on an affidavit written by Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Inspector Kathleen Boyovich. It detailed the suspected plot to kill the witnesses and described Bey IV’s request to be his own attorney as a way to interfere in other cases.

“You can’t do a hit list on witnesses,” the judge said. “From biblical times you can’t do that.”

According to Boyovich’s affidavit, Bey IV said on a recorded jail phone call that his desire to represent himself was “more of strategy” involving other cases. McGuiness said that phone call weighed in his decision.

McGuiness said he was concerned with what he called “the grave incident involving Ms. Brown.” Neither Bey IV nor Brown has been charged in the suspected witness plot, and Brown and her lawyer have declined interview requests. The suspected hit man, Gary Popoff, was found with court documents on which Bey IV had written instructions in the margins, according to Boyovich’s affidavit.

Popoff was on parole at the time and sent back to state prison for nine months. He is expected to be charged.

The real estate fraud case, in which Bey IV is charged with 13 felonies, is considered secondary to the Bailey case and another case in which he and others are charged with kidnapping two women and torturing one of them in a failed attempt to learn where a drug dealer kept money. He has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

A change-of-venue motion in the murder case is scheduled for Aug. 23.

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