Former Your Black Muslim Bakery member refuses to testify
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — A former member of Your Black Muslim Bakery asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Wednesday morning and refused to testify in the Chauncey Bailey murder trial.
Richard Lewis was convicted last year of kidnapping, torture and other crimes and is serving a life sentence without parole eligibility at Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, who described any potential testimony by Lewis as fraught with legal complications, granted Lewis’ claim during a brief hearing.
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Defense lawyers wanted Lewis’ testimony in the case against former bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and bakery member Antoine Mackey. Mackey’s attorney, Gary Sirbu, claims that Lewis, not Mackey, was the getaway driver after Bailey was shot on Aug. 2, 2007.
Bey IV and Mackey have pleaded not guilty to triple-murder charges in connection with Bailey’s death and the unrelated shooting deaths of Michael Wills and Odell Roberson.
Sirbu also claims that Lewis — not Mackey — shot and killed Wills in July 2007, largely because a witness described a man fitting Lewis’ physical description running from the scene. Lewis is 5-feet, 8-inches tall; Mackey is listed as 6-feet, 2-inches tall in jail records.
Lewis, in a red jail jumpsuit and shackled at the waist, sat in the jury box with his attorney, Pat Hetrick, answering Reardon’s questions in a barely audible voice. Hetrick said previously that Lewis wanted to “pick and chose” what questions he would answer. On Wednesday, Hetrick said his client had changed his mind and accepted his advice not to testify.
Since Lewis has appealed his conviction in the kidnapping and torture case, Reardon said that there was little that he could testify about that would not be incriminating.
Even answering a simple question like “how long have you known Mr. Bey,” could have been a problem for Lewis, “given the evidence I have heard,” Reardon said.
The man who confessed to shooting Bailey and Roberson, Devaughndre Broussard, described Lewis as a longtime family friend. Sirbu has claimed Broussard was protecting Lewis by incriminating Mackey in the deaths.
In a related ruling, Reardon said Sirbu could call Lewis’ former high school football coach to the stand. Lewis was a former standout running back. The witness who saw a man fleeing from the Wills killing described that person running like “a halfback.”
Reach investigative reporter Thomas Peele at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/thomas_peele.