Former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader questions whether judge can be fair
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — Former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV said in court Thursday he is concerned whether the judge in his triple murder trial can be fair to him because of a comment made in another case.
Speaking directly to Judge Thomas Reardon at the end of the fourth day of jury selection in his trial, Bey IV said he was upset with the way Reardon characterized bakery members accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman in 2007.
When Reardon sentenced bakery member Richard Lewis in December after a jury convicted him in that case, he described those involved as “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” the title of a 1969 novel by Jimmy Breslin about a bumbling New York mafia family.
“I don’t think personally you can be fair in this case,” Bey IV said. “I don’t feel confident. I would prefer someone else.”
Bey IV, 25, is also charged in the kidnapping and torture case and is to be tried in it after the murder trial. Bey IV is accused of ordering the death of journalist Chauncey Bailey in 2007, as well as the deaths of two other men in unrelated shootings.
Reardon said the matter would be discussed further Monday and questioned whether a motion should be filed to remove him from the murder trial, formally raising the issue as a legal matter.
“I want to go forward carefully,” he said.
Bey IV made the comments a day after raising the idea of representing himself on the murder charges. His lawyer, Gene Peretti, told Reardon that Bey IV no longer wished to do that.
But then, apparently over Peretti’s objection, Bey IV said he wanted to address Reardon directly. He told Reardon neither his family nor followers were a gang.
Peretti declined to comment outside of court.
Reardon said he simply used the title of the book and a subsequent film as a paraphrase for the five men who kidnapped the woman at gunpoint on the side of Interstate 580 and tortured her in an abandoned house in a failed attempt to learn where a drug dealer kept money.
“I didn’t mean the Crips or the Bloods,” he told Bey IV.
Two of Bey IV’s half brothers, Yusuf Bey V and Joshua Bey, testified that Bey IV organized the attack. Bey V said Bey IV boasted they would score $500,000 and save the bakery from a pending bankruptcy proceeding.
But the woman didn’t know where the dealer kept money and she had $1 in her purse after losing $50 playing bingo, she testified. A police officer happened on the scene and her assailants fled, allowing her to be rescued. Police broke the case largely because Joshua Bey dropped his cell phone at the scene as he fled.
Reardon, who sometimes uses literary analogies from the bench, told Bey IV that he was observing that the scheme revealed during Lewis’ trial showed “the folks involved had not planned it out well.
“It is a euphemism to an old book,” Reardon told Bey IV.
“I understand his concerns. I appreciate his comments. He has not insulted me today,” Reardon said from the bench.
Reardon routinely appears in area theaters, often in musicals, including a 2008 production of The Music Man at the Bankhead Theatre in Livermore.
During recent hearings in Bey IV’s case he has referred to the 1938 musical “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and the 1949 George Orwell novel “1984” while making rulings from the bench.
Reach investigative reporter Thomas Peele at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at Thomas_Peele@twitter.com.