Chauncey Bailey’s anonymous source testifies Wednesday in the journalist’s murder trial
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — A witness who said he was journalist Chauncey Bailey’s anonymous source for an article on Your Black Muslim Bakery testified Wednesday against his brother-in-law — and the man who once allegedly wanted to kill him — bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV.
Saleem Bey said he met with Bailey twice at the Oakland Post in summer 2007 and gave him documents he said supported his claims that Bey IV had no legal right to control the bakery. In tense exchanges with prosecutor Melissa Krum, Saleem Bey gave clipped, often one word answers. He was on the stand a little more than an hour.
Earlier Wednesday, Saleem Bey spent about 15 minutes before Judge Thomas Reardon with the jury absent.
Reardon told him of orders he had made about the inadmissibility of matters from the bakery’s past involving two men close to the witness — former bakery chief executive Waajid Aljawwaad, who disappeared and was later found dead in 2004; and John Muhammad Bey, who was wounded during an ambush in June 2005 and later moved out of the area with his family.
Reardon had previously ruled that neither matter was relevant to the charges against Bey IV and his co-defendant, Antoine Mackey, and took the unusual step of informing Saleem Bey of that before his testimony.
“I disagree,” Saleem Bey said when Reardon asked him if he understood the orders, but he said he would comply.
Bey IV is charged with ordering Bailey and two other men killed in 2007. Devaughndre Broussard, Bailey’s admitted killer, testified the bakery leader wanted Bailey dead to stop the story that Saleem Bey was providing information for.
Bey IV is being tried alongside Mackey, who is accused of helping Broussard kill Bailey and another man, Odell Roberson, and with killing a third man, Michael Wills.
Bey IV and Mackey, both 25, have pleaded not guilty. They face life prison terms without parole if convicted.
Broussard testified that Bey IV ordered him and Mackey to kill Saleem Bey as well as Bailey, but then changed his mind because killing his brother-in-law would cause too much strife within the family. Saleem Bey is married to one of Bey IV’s older half sisters.
Under questioning from Krum, Saleem Bey said Aljawwaad was “the last CEO of the bakery” and that those who took over the bakery after him — Bey IV and his late brother Antar Bey — were only “occupying the bakery.”
The bakery, he insisted, “ceased to exist,” following Aljawwaad’s death, which he was not allowed to describe or put into context.
Saleem Bey has contended many times that Antar Bey took control of the bakery illegally following Aljawwaad’s disappearance and that Bey IV, as his brother’s successor, lacked legal standing to make the company’s bankruptcy claim in 2006.
His contempt for Bey IV seemed obvious as he scowled at the younger man as he pointed him out at the defense table, jutting his hand at him. Asked if he also knew Mackey, Saleem Bey replied, “In no way, shape or form.”
The witness said that following a series of failed attempts to stop the bankruptcy proceeding and to convince Oakland politicians to help him, he met with Bailey and gave him documents that spelled out his claims. The following day, he said, he returned to the Oakland Post and Bailey showed him a story containing his claims on a computer screen.
Leaving one of those meetings, he said he ran into a woman named Nisayah Yahudah, formally known as Nisa Bey. She had been married to Bey IV’s father, bakery founder Yusuf Bey, in the 1970s and was then working at the Post selling advertising.
“My concern was that her connection to other family members would jeopardize my anonymity with Bailey,” he testified.
Yahudah testified briefly Tuesday, saying she told no one she saw Saleem Bey at the newspaper office.
Bey IV told police in 2007 he learned Bailey was writing a story about him through his sister, Islam Bey, documents show. Yahudah testified that Islam Bey is her daughter.
After meeting with Bailey, Saleem Bey testified that Bey IV called him and said “keep your name out of my mouth.”
Asked how he replied, the witness testified he said, “Yes, sir,” and hung up.
Krum asked him why he would subordinate himself to Bey IV.
“So to not engage him,” Saleem Bey replied. “I thought that after that it would end the conversation.”
Earlier Wednesday, a woman who said she was Yusuf Bey IV’s “second wife” at Your Black Muslim Bakery testified that her identity was stolen and a house and car were bought using her Social Security number after she left the organization in 2007.
Jasmin Siaw told jurors that she eventually found out about the fraud, that also included several credit cards under the name Ameena Bey.
She told jurors she briefly took the Black Muslim name Ameena Muhammad while she was in a polygamist-like relationship with Bey IV and another woman, but she never took Bey as a last name.
Krum contends that financial fraud was routine at the bakery and that Bey IV promised Broussard access to good credit and loans in exchange for killing Bailey.
Siaw spent part of two days on the strand. She testified she had known Bey IV since childhood, worked at the bakery on two occasions, and eventually decided to become known as Bey IV’s second wife, although no ceremony was held. Bey IV also was not legally married to the woman he referred to as his first wife, Alaia Bey, also known as Tiffany Wade.
Siaw said Bey IV wanted to be like his father, bakery founder Yusuf Bey, who considered a dozen or more of his female followers to be his wives. They bore him dozens of children.
Siaw was also grilled by Mackey’s attorney, Gary Sirbu, over her arrest in 2008 on suspicion that she was involved in Roberson’s murder. Police acted on a statement given by a woman who claimed that Siaw had bragged about being Bey IV’s wife and boasted that she helped kill Roberson in July 2007. Siaw was never charged in that case after authorities found the woman wasn’t credible, according to court documents.
Siaw repeatedly denied Sirbu’s allegations that she was involved during a tense examination Tuesday before Judge Thomas Reardon and a jury of seven women and five men.
“Did you escort or lure Odell Roberson to a place where you knew he would be murdered?” Sirbu asked.
“No,” Siaw replied.
“Didn’t you, in fact, tell Yusuf Bey IV that Odell Roberson had been murdered?” Sirbu asked.
“Hell no,” Siaw snapped.
According to court documents, the woman who made the claim to police said that Siaw told her that she and bakery follower Tamon Halfin were responsible for Roberson murder.
Siaw denied all of Sirbu’s accusation, saying no such conversation took place. Sirbu is expected to call the woman who made the claim as a defense witness.
Also, Siaw testified that Bey IV ordered the shooting of a car belonging to the father of her children. That man, Cemeren Cook, had gotten in a dispute with Bey IV’s half brother, Yusuf Bey V, and Bey IV ordered his car riddled with bullets as retaliation, Siaw said.
Contact investigative reporter Thomas Peele at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.