Life terms for two men who murdered journalist Chauncey Bailey
By Thomas Peele, Josh Richman and Bob Butler, The Chauncey Bailey Porject
OAKLAND — As members of victims’ families cried in a crowded courtroom Friday, former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and an associate were sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men in 2007.
“Never did I think in my wildest dreams Chauncey’s life would end because of a story,” Bailey’s former wife, Robin Hardin-Bailey, told Judge Thomas Reardon before he imposed consecutive life sentences on Bey IV and Antoine Mackey, both 25.
Bailey “didn’t dislike you,” Hardin-Bailey said to Bey IV, who sat a few feet in front of her in shackles and a red jail jumpsuit, sometimes turning to watch her.
“He was a journalist in his heart,” she said.
“I forgive you because the Chauncey Bailey who I know, the Chauncey Bailey who came here to right the wrongs, to tell the story of people who had no voice, I believe that he would forgive you, too.”
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The sentences cap a saga that captured national media attention and hastened the downfall of a notorious Oakland institution.
Bailey, 57, the editor of the Oakland Post and a former Oakland Tribune reporter, was shot dead Aug. 2, 2007, while working on a story about the bakery’s troubled finances. His confessed killer, Devaughndre Broussard, testified that Bey IV ordered him and Mackey to “take (Bailey) out before he write that story.”
A jury on June 9 convicted Bey IV of ordering Bailey’s killing and Mackey of helping Broussard carry it out. Bey IV was also convicted of ordering two other men, Michael Wills and Odell Roberson, shot dead in July 2007. Mackey was convicted of killing Wills; jurors couldn’t reach a verdict on whether Mackey was guilty of murder in Roberson’s death.
Broussard, who testified for nine days against Bey IV and Mackey, received a 25-year sentence as a part of a plea bargain.
Bey IV was sent to prison for three consecutive life terms and Mackey for two — one term for each man they were convicted of killing. They cannot be paroled. Lawyers for both said they would appeal.
Neither Bey IV nor Mackey spoke during sentencing. But in a statement read by his attorney, Bey IV said he was an innocent victim of forces that were out to destroy the bakery.
“I would like the people to know this case has never been about truth and justice. It has been about perception and politics,” said Bey IV’s statement, his first public comments since he was charged in the case. “I will not rest until I find those truly responsible for setting this operation up. For years there have been elements out there trying to destroy the institution of Your Black Muslim Bakery.”
Bey IV’s late father, Yusuf Bey, opened the Oakland bakery in the early 1970s after splitting from the Nation of Islam, and built it up as a purported black empowerment organization.
Bey IV also apologized to the victims’ families and his family “for not making a wiser decision and allowing this to have occurred on my watch.”
In an emotional statement, Wills’ mother recalled her son’s life and her pain at his death. Broussard said Bey IV and Mackey killed Wills, a 36-year-old sous chef, because he was white.
“Why would someone order him murdered just because of his race? … This was a man who saw everyone as equal,” Robin Haugen said as Bey IV looked away. Mackey turned to glance at her.
Bey IV and Mackey were not charged with a hate crime in Wills’ killing, but Reardon said he found a racial motivation for the slaying when considering punishment.
Outside court, prosecutor Melissa Krum said she was pleased with the sentences, saying they are “absolutely and positively justice in its ultimate. There could not have been a more maximum sentence unless we had sought the death penalty.”
Bailey was the first journalist killed over a domestic story in the United States since an investigative reporter in Arizona was killed in 1976, and the Bailey story was covered across the nation, including in a segment on “60 Minutes.”
“It is satisfying to know that the murder of a journalist has received a punishment that fits the crime, and will preclude them harming journalists and others in the future,” said Frank Smyth of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Outside court, Bey IV’s attorney, Gene Peretti, declined to discuss why Bey IV would say he was victim of unnamed people out to destroy the bakery while at the same time seeming to take some responsibility for the deaths. He said Bey IV’s position is that Broussard committed all three murders on his own.
Bey IV is due back in court next month to set a trial date for a separate case in which he is charged with kidnapping two women and torturing one of them in a failed attempt to learn where a drug dealer hid money.
–Odell Roberson, 31, killed July 8, 2007, because he was related to a man convicted of killing former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV’s brother.
–Michael Wills, 36, killed July 12, 2007, on a late-night walk to a corner store. Bey IV and bakery member Antoine Mackey bragged they’d killed “a white devil.”
–Chauncey Bailey, 57, killed Aug. 2, 2007, to stop the Oakland Post editor from writing a story on financial troubles and internal strife at Your Black Muslim Bakery.