Chauncey Bailey Project

Your Black Muslim Bakery was ideological center, prosecutor asserts

Clockwise from bottom left: Richard Lewis, Yusuf Bey IV, Yusuf Bey V, Tamon Halfin. (CChing/CIR)
Clockwise from bottom left: Richard Lewis, Yusuf Bey IV, Yusuf Bey V, Tamon Halfin. (CChing/CIR)

Clockwise from bottom left: Richard Lewis, Yusuf Bey IV, Yusuf Bey V, Tamon Halfin. (CChing/CIR)

By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

OAKLAND — Your Black Muslim Bakery was more than a bakery. Its employees were more than employees. They were people who “found a belief system there.”

Those were the riffs a prosecutor continually hit Monday during opening arguments in the trial of Richard Lewis, who is charged with taking part in the kidnapping of two women and the torture of one of them in 2007.

“At its core the bakery was more than a business, it was the nucleus of the Black Muslim movement in Oakland,” Prosecutor Christopher Lamiero said. “This was not like they were baking cookies at Mrs. Fields or making pineapple upside down cake at Merritt Bakery.”

The kidnapping was designed to help bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV satisfy debts that were strangling the business and religious order his father, Yusuf Bey, had founded more than 30 years earlier, Lamiero told jurors. Bey IV believed one of the women possessed drug proceeds and that she knew where a drug dealer stashed money.

Lewis, the first of Bey IV’s inner circle to be tried for the myriad crimes that caused the bakery to collapse in August 2007, quickly rose to become a leader of the bakery’s “quasi military operation,” Lamiero said.

“Yusuf Bey IV came to realize that he needed a crew of strong people around him,” Lamiero told a jury of eight women and four men. “He needed them to do whatever he told them. He needed them not to be afraid to employ violence to acquire cash to make payments to creditors.”

“You absolutely better believe that the evidence is going to show, without a doubt, that the person absolutely willing to employ force and violence to raise funds was this man, right here, Richard Lewis,” Lamiero said, pointing at the defendant.

Lewis, dressed in a black shirt with white pinstripes, sat quietly as Lamiero detailed the case. Defense attorney Patrick Hetrick is scheduled to make his opening remarks to the jury today.

Lamiero said the bakery owed private creditors about $750,000 and Bey IV was desperate to raise monthly payments of $7,500.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Lamiero said.

A drug dealer named Johnny Anton helped Bey IV allegedly set up the victims. They were kidnapped using an old police car. One of the women was tied to a red wooden chair in an abandoned East Oakland house, a Hefty garbage over her head with a small hole in it so she could breath. Through the breathing hole she caught glimpses of her attackers, who threatened to hurt her with a curling iron, Lamiero said.

The women were saved when an Oakland police officer happened on the scene and defendants fled.

Bey IV and another defendant, Tamon Halfin, are scheduled to be tried separately on the same charges of Lewis. Bey IV is scheduled to first face a jury in May on charges he ordered journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men killed in the summer of 2007. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

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