Judge allows large portions of video mocking journalist’s death to be played for jurors
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — Large portions of a secretly recorded police video on which former Your Black Muslim leader Yusuf Bey IV laughed about the 2007 killing of journalist Chauncey Bailey, threatened to kill a police officer and implicated himself in a kidnapping and torture case can be shown to jurors, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The jury in Bey IV and co-defendant Antoine Mackey’s triple murder trial could see the video as early as Wednesday, after other witnesses testify in the case.
Judge Thomas Reardon, working his way through a 60-page transcript of the video, ruled that the probative nature of Bey IV’s comments outweighed any unfair prejudices they may give jurors.
On the tape, Bey IV laughs about Bailey’s Aug. 2, 2007, killing and imitates the effect of shotgun wounds the 57-year-old reporter suffered. “Pow, pow, poof!” Bey IV said, throwing his head back, rolling his eyes upward and breaking into laughter.
That laughter, prosecutor Melissa Krum told Reardon, shows “a base consciousness of guilt” to the charge that Bey IV ordered Bailey killed to stop him from writing about the bakery’s financial troubles in the Oakland Post.
“He is expressing glee about Bailey’s death,” she said.
Click here to see a version of the video produced by the Chauncey Bailey Project that includes enhanced sound and subtitles. The jury will see a different version of the same recording.
Mackey does not appear on the tape, made secretly while Bey IV and two of his followers waited in a San Leandro Police Department interview room in August 2007 after their arrest on charges relating to another case.
Mackey’s lawyer, Gary Sirbu, said the recording “is extremely damaging and unfair to my client. The jury is going to conclude that because he is associated with Bey (IV) that Mr. Mackey is a very bad person.”
Sirbu renewed an earlier motion to have Mackey tried separately from Bey IV. Reardon again denied it, saying he already ruled that Krum can present the theory that Bey IV was, in effect, a criminal boss and that Mackey followed his orders. That theory, Reardon said, makes Bey IV’s action relevant to Mackey.
Bey IV is charged with ordering three murders in summer 2007: Bailey’s and those of Michael Wills and Odell Roberson. Mackey is charged with killing Wills, and with helping carry out the slayings of Bailey and Roberson.
Bey IV and Mackey, both 25, have pleaded not guilty. They face life in prison without parole if convicted.
A hearing on the video, with the jury absent, took most of Tuesday afternoon. The video was filmed on Aug. 6, 2007, three days after police raided the bakery and arrested Bey IV in connection with the kidnapping of two women and torture of one of them on May 17, 2007.
Police tricked Bey IV, his half brother, Joshua Bey, and bakery follower Tamon Halfin by leaving them alone in a police interview room with a hidden camera running for more than two hours.
The recording is “very demonstrative of Bey IV’s ego,” Krum said. “He sees himself as tremendously important in the community” and someone who wielded “brute power.”
“The people in Oakland are already terrified of us,” Bey IV said on the tape, according to portions of a transcript read aloud in court. “I’m going to make the mayor give me some (expletive) now.”
Reardon seemed to take a scalpel — not the scissors defense lawyers wanted — to a transcript of the video, leaving much of it intact, while slicing away irrelevant parts to shorten it for the jury. Jurors will see about an hour of the video.
At one point on the recording Bey IV said of an unnamed person, “He probably thinks we are going to kill him next.”
Gene Peretti, Bey IV’s lawyer, wanted the line cut from the version that jurors will see, claiming it was made during “a casual conversation.”
But Reardon said, “The word ‘next’ is the problem. (It’s) a reasonable inference he killed people already.”
When Peretti objected further, Reardon said, “I didn’t say it, he did,” referring to Bey IV.
Also on the video, Bey IV told Joshua Bey and Halfin not to tell police anything about the kidnapping, saying that the victim, who had a bag over her head, couldn’t identify her attackers.
He also admonished Halfin for not shooting a police officer who happened upon the crime in progress and rescued the victim. When Halfin expressed concern that the officer would testify against him, Bey IV said, “Not if he don’t come to court. We got some crazy (expletive) hitters.”
Earlier Tuesday, a man who lives close to where Michael Wills was shot to death told jurors that he saw someone running with a rifle moments after he heard shots.
“The shots were distinct and somewhat erratic in pattern,” said the witness, John Hopping. He went to a third floor window where he saw a man in tan pants and a blue knit cap run east on 63rd Street in Oakland, cradling a rifle, he said.
Hopping said he told police the man was around 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 and weighed perhaps 160 pounds.
Broussard testified two weeks ago that Mackey admitted killing Willis on Bey IV’s order, and that Bey IV and Mackey joked about the shooting and said Wills was targeted because he was white.
Wills was shot after 3 a.m. on July 12, 2007. Broussard testified that he got a phone call moments after hearing rifle shots and was told to open a gate to a parking area behind the bakery.
Bey IV’s Dodge Charger then turned into the compound and Mackey got out holding an assault rifle, Broussard said. Bey IV was driving, he added.
Hopping gave police only a general description of the man with the gun, he told jurors.
“He was fairly young and athletic looking. He was running in the middle of the street,” he said. “I saw the barrel of a gun protruding from his arm. He was leaning forward, like he played football, holding (the gun) very close to him.”
Although Mackey’s name was not mentioned during Hopping’s testimony, Sirbu had accused Broussard of repeatedly lying to protect another bakery member, Richard Lewis, a former high school football player in San Francisco who played running back.
Broussard told jurors that Lewis was like a cousin during their childhoods, but rejected Sirbu’s claims that he was framing Mackey to Lewis’s benefit.
Mackey, also a former football player, according to court records, is listed in jail records as 6-feet, 2-inches tall. Lewis is listed as 5-foot-8.
Hopping testified that he called 911 after the man ran past his window, then went out to San Pablo Avenue where he found Wills sprawled on the sidewalk near the end of a pedestrian walkway that separates two city softball fields from the Golden Gate School.
In other testimony Tuesday, a U.S. Bankruptcy trustee told jurors about the bakery’s bankruptcy case, which he oversaw in 2007.
Trustee Matthew Kretzer told jurors how the case began in 2006 as an attempt by Bey IV to protect the bakery from lenders and the IRS and buy time to reorganize its finances.
The bakery owed $700,000 to a finance company and $237,910 to the IRS, Kretzer said.
But little evidence of a true effort to reorganize was submitted to the court, he said, and the case was converted to liquidation.
The bakery “didn’t seem to make any progress at all,” he said. “As far as we could tell they were not paying payroll taxes.”
Contact investigative reporter Thomas Peele at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.