Former attorney for Yusuf Bey IV faces new disciplinary charges
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
The State Bar of California has filed new disciplinary charges against Berkeley lawyer Lorna Brown that could lead to her disbarment for smuggling documents, including an alleged hit list, out of an Alameda County jail in 2010 for her then client, former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV.
The state Supreme Court in June rejected a plea deal that Brown had reached with the Bar that proposed she receive a two-year suspension and ordered the case be investigated again. The new charges allege that Brown lied repeatedly to District Attorney’s investigators when first confronted. She later admitted taking the papers out of the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, but said she thought she was delivering only a love letter, according to documents.
But the new charging documents, released Monday, allege that Brown knew one of those documents — described as a list of names — was intended for Bey IV’s self-professed “No. 1 soldier,” Gary Popoff, who has a 20-year history of felony convictions. The charges do not allege that Brown knew the document was a hit list.
They also allege that a sealed envelope Brown carried contained instructions for Bey IV’s girlfriend to destroy evidence in what was then his pending triple-murder trial. He was convicted last year of ordering Oakland Post journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men killed in 2007 and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance at parole.
It remains unclear when the new case against Brown will go to trail in State Bar Court, where attorney disciplinary allegations are tried. A status conference is scheduled for next month in San Francisco.
“We will respond” to the charges, Brown’s attorney Michael Cardoza, said Monday. “I understand how volatile it is. But it’s been blown way out of proportion.”
Brown, Cardoza said, “has admitted what she did, taking things out of (the jail).” But, he added, “it was not a hit list.” He did not further describe the document.
But that is exactly how a District Attorney’s inspector described it in a 2010 court document filed shortly after a judge removed Brown from Bey IV’s defense. The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Brown, a former substitute Superior Court judge, has never been criminally charged in the matter. O’Malley, in an interview earlier this year, said Brown had promised to retire from her law practice in exchange for misdemeanor charges not being filed against her. But after the statute of limitations for those charges expired Brown tried to restart her criminal defense practice, O’Malley said. After investigating the matter again, O’Malley decided not to file felony charges against Brown.
Brown admitted she gave the alleged hit list to a member of the Bey family on an Oakland street corner. It was found in Popoff’s car in April 2010. He was on parole at the time and returned to state prison, but never directly charged with plotting to harm witnesses. He was acquitted earlier this year on unrelated gun charges.
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