Chauncey Bailey Project

Lawyer in Chauncey Bailey case is resigning from practice of law

Yusuf Bey IV, with attorney Lorna Brown, speaks to the media in front of Your Black Muslim Bakery in 2005. (Oakland Tribune)
Yusuf Bey IV, with attorney Lorna Brown, speaks to the media in front of Your Black Muslim Bakery in 2005. (Oakland Tribune)

Yusuf Bey IV, with attorney Lorna Brown, speaks to the media in front of Your Black Muslim Bakery in 2005. (Oakland Tribune)

By Thomas Peele and Josh Richman, The Chauncey Bailey Project

OAKLAND — Lawyer Lorna Patton Brown is resigning from the practice of law after being implicated in a plot by her former client, Yusuf Bey IV, to kill witnesses in the Chauncey Bailey murder case, sources said Wednesday.

Brown, 64, smuggled a hit list out of jail in March that named witnesses her client wanted killed to prevent their testimony in his upcoming trial, according to court papers.

It was unclear when her resignation will take effect. Brown did not return multiple messages Wednesday.

“I don’t think (the resignation) is a matter of public importance,” Spencer Strellis, an attorney who represented Brown when the plot was unraveled earlier this year, said. “I think she is a fine, upstanding woman.”

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is “continuing to review” the matter, senior deputy district attorney Jeffrey Stark said. He declined further comment. Brown has not been charged with a crime.

Brown has been circulating letters to judges about her decision and stepping down from cases, three people familiar with matter said. The three in the legal community spoke on the condition their names not be used.

Those who have resigned from the state bar “may not practice law in California,” according to the bar association’s website. “Their resignation has been accepted by the California Supreme Court and may be entirely voluntary or may have been submitted with disciplinary charges pending.”

Most lawyers who wish to voluntarily stop practicing without an ethical cloud hanging over them simply request inactive status from the bar association, a professor of legal ethics said.

Resigning “is like a disbarment, which is five years. Going to inactive is easier. Often lawyers resign when they have charges pending that have not yet gotten to the stage of being public,” said Carol Langford, an adjunct law professor who teaches legal ethics at the University of San Francisco and UC Hastings law schools.

Brown, who has worked as a substitute Superior Court judge, was the lawyer for Bey IV’s father, Yusuf Bey, when he faced multiple rape and sexual abuse charges eight years ago. The elder Bey died before they could be resolved. Brown remained Bey IV’s lawyer, defending him in a vehicular assault case in San Francisco and other matters.

When Bey IV was indicted in April 2009 on charges he ordered the killing of Bailey and two other men in the summer of 2007, Brown was appointed to represent him.

But she abruptly resigned in April amid the witness plot investigation.

Brown “smuggled written communication and materials out of Santa Rita Jail (in Dublin) without the authorization of the sheriffs department and delivered the unlawful communication to others” on six occasions, states an affidavit written by Inspector Kathleen Boyovich, of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

On one of the documents she smuggled out of the jail “witnesses names had been highlighted” so that (a hit man) would know who “he would have to kill so they would not be available to testify at Bey IV’s pending murder trial,” Boyovich wrote.

The documents were later found in Gary Popoff’s car. He was jailed on a parole violation in a drug case and is in San Quentin Prison.

During a court hearing last week as Bey IV’s trial began inching toward jury selection, Judge Thomas Reardon said he was still weeding through documents related to the plot to determine “who will be entitled to the information.” Those include “hard copies of the documents that actually changed hands.”

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