Member of Your Black Muslim Bakery sentenced to life
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — The first member of Your Black Muslim Bakery convicted of one of the gruesome crimes that helped destroy the organization more than three years ago was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon gave Richard Lewis, 26, a former high school football star in San Francisco, the stiffest possible sentence. A jury convicted Lewis in April of six felonies in the May 2007 kidnapping of a mother and daughter at gunpoint and the torture of the daughter in a failed attempt to learn where a drug dealer she knew kept money.
Reardon called the Beys “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight” but said the scheme behind the crime, including the use of a decommissioned police car to trick the women into stopping on the shoulder of I-580, showed sophistication. Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV thought the daughter would lead him to the drug dealer’s $500,000 so he could use it to save the bakery from being liquidated in a bankruptcy proceeding.
“This was not just a crime of opportunity,” Reardon said. The emotional and physical sufferings inflicted on the victims involved a “high degree of cruelty, viciousness and callousness.” There is no doubt, he said, that Lewis, who has no prior criminal record, is a threat to society.
A San Francisco jury acquitted Lewis of murder in 2007 in a case where a woman was shot during a drug deal. An incriminating statement on which most of the case against him hinged had been thrown out on a legal technicality.
Lewis met Bey IV in the San Francisco jail while awaiting his murder trial; Bey IV urged him to join the bakery if he was freed. Within a few days of his acquittal, Lewis moved to Oakland.
Bey IV, according to testimony and recording of a jail conversation without his knowledge, had hoped that Lewis would prove to be “a strong soldier” who would toughen the bakery ranks. Lewis became part of what Bey IV called his “San Francisco muscle.”
Bey IV has yet to be tried in the kidnapping case. His murder trial for allegedly ordering the Aug. 2, 2007, killing of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two men the previous month is in its early stages, also before Reardon. Bey IV and another of his followers, Tamon Halfin, are scheduled to face the kidnapping charges sometime after the murder trial
During Lewis’ trial, the torture victim testified that she was taken to an East Oakland house where she was beaten, cut with a knife, and threatened with death. She said she had no idea where the dealer, from whom she sometimes bought small amounts of cocaine, kept his money. A police officer searching for a stolen car happened upon the scene, causing Lewis and four other men to run.
One of them, Joshua Bey, dropped his cell phone, which detectives used to help unravel the crime by analyzing phone records. Neither of the women were able to identify their kidnappers, who were masked.
Two cars registered to the Beys were abandoned at the crime scene. Bey IV ordered underlings to report them stolen, a scheme detectives also picked apart and proved wasn’t true.
Neither Lewis nor the torture victim made statements Friday. Prosecutor Christopher Lamiero called the sentence appropriate. Lewis’ lawyer, Patrick Hetrick, indicated Lewis would appeal.
Reardon rejected several motions that Hetrick made Friday asking for a new trial.
The only people who identified Lewis were his former co-defendants Yusuf Bey V and Joshua Bey, both of whom took plea deals in exchange for testimony. Hetrick, who attacked their credibility during the trial, calling them “liars and snitches,” said to sentence Lewis to life in prison without parole based largely on the Bey’s testimony “is draconian.”