Trial in Chauncey Bailey murder case begins
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — More than three years after the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, the trial of two men charged with his killing began — slowly — Monday in a courtroom just two blocks from where he fell in a hail of shotgun blasts.
Although jury selection isn’t expected until January, Judge Thomas M. Reardon is considering several motions that could shape the direction of the case.
Besides Bailey’s slaying, defendants Yusuf Bey IV and Antoine Mackey are each charged in two additional slayings — the July 2007 shootings of Odell Roberson and Michael Wills near Bey IV’s business and spiritual center, the now defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery.
Following a lengthy session in his chambers with lawyers, Reardon said he will consider two major motions next month:
One from defense lawyers to throw out the April 2009 indictment of Bey IV and Mackey because grand jurors were not presented with evidence that impeaches the credibility of prosecution witness Devaughndre Broussard and presents alternative scenarios to the Wills and Roberson killings.
One from prosecutor Melissa Krum to bring into evidence other violent acts involving Bey IV. He has pleaded guilty to leading the ransacking of two Oakland liquor stores in November 2005 and is awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping two women and torturing one of them in May 2007.
How Reardon rules on that motion may affect what the judge termed an expected motion by Mackey’s lawyer, Gary Sirbu, to try his client separately.
Reardon has previously reserved ruling on a motion to move the trial out of Oakland until after he screens potential jurors, most likely in late January.
Bailey’s brother, Mark Cooley, said last week that the trial will be painful but necessary for the family to finally move on. He likened the approaching arguments and presentation of evidence to painfully “tearing off a Band-Aid” from a wound that will not heal without exposure to fresh air. “It’s going to hurt,” he said.
Broussard pleaded guilty last year to killing Bailey and Roberson on Bey IV’s order. Bey IV, Broussard told a grand jury, wanted the journalist dead because he was preparing a story for the Oakland Post on the bakery’s filing for bankruptcy and on feuding within the Bey family.
Bey IV is also charged with murder for ordering Wills and Roberson killed. Broussard pleaded guilty to killing Roberson and testified that Mackey helped him. He also testified that Mackey helped him hunt down Bailey. Broussard also testified that Mackey admitted that he killed Wills on Bey IV’s urging.
In the motion to throw out Bey IV and Macky’s indictment, Sirbu wrote that prosecutors failed to present grand jurors with evidence he described as showing that Broussard — not Mackey — killed Wills with an assault rifle and that another Bey IV follower, Tamon Halfin, who is jailed awaiting trial in the kidnapping case, killed Roberson.
Both are based on statements taken by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office that did not result in charges. In the Wills case, a woman who claimed she heard Bey IV admonish Broussard for killing Wills later changed her story.
In the Roberson killing, a woman who said she was friends with another woman once “spiritually married” to Bey IV said she bragged that she, in fact, set up Roberson and that Halfin gunned him down. The woman who made the claims was not charged following an investigation.
Also Monday, Reardon said he was reviewing evidence in an ongoing investigation of a potential witness tampering by Bey IV, his former attorney, Lorna P. Brown, and a bakery member, Gary Popoff.
Brown resigned the case in April after Popoff was arrested carrying legal papers that a district attorney’s inspector has said Brown illegally carried out of the Santa Rita Jail. Written in the margins, according to a declaration by the inspector, were Bey IV’s instructions about witnesses he wanted killed or intimidated.
Reardon said he was still deciding how much of the information to turn over to Bey IV’s lawyer, Gene Peretti. No one has been charged, although Popoff received a parole violation after police found him in possession of the documents and was returned to San Quentin Prison to serve an additional nine months on an unrelated drug conviction.
Reach investigative reporter Thomas Peele at email@example.com and follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.