Chauncey Bailey Project

Former Your Black Muslim Bakery member takes a plea deal

Clockwise from upper left:  Yusuf Bey IV, Yusuf Bey V., Tamon Halfin, Richard Lewis (Carrie Ching/CIR)
Clockwise from upper left: Yusuf Bey IV, Yusuf Bey V., Tamon Halfin, Richard Lewis (Carrie Ching/CIR)

By Thomas Peele,
The Chauncey Bailey Project

OAKLAND — A member of the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery whose conviction and life prison sentence stemming from the 2007 kidnapping and torture of a woman was overturned by an appeals court in January pleaded guilty to lesser charges on Tuesday.

Richard Lewis, 30, is to be sentenced in December to 20 years. He must serve at least 17 of them before being eligible for release and will have three strikes on his record, a spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office wrote in a statement.

Lewis, a former highly regarded San Francisco high school football star, had rejected a plea deal in the case in 2009 and a jury convicted him in 2010 of charges that he took part in the roadside kidnapping of a woman and her elderly mother in the spring of 2007.

After stopping the women on Interstate 580 with a retired police cruiser, they were hustled off to an abandoned East Oakland house where the younger woman, a bag over her head, was beaten with fists, pistol whipped and cut with a knife, according to trial testimony.

It was part of a scheme by then-bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV to learn where a drug dealer hid money. But it was later learned that a rival dealer had set the woman up and she bore no such knowledge. She was rescued when a police officer happened upon the scene, heard her screams and charged into the house as her attackers fled.

Two of Bey IV’s brothers, Yusuf Bey V and Joshua Bey, accepted plea deals and testified that Lewis participated. Lewis denied that on the stand but could not specifically say where he was when the crime occurred. Medical records also showed he was treated at a hospital the day after the crime for an ankle injury — an ankle Bey V testified Lewis injured in his escape.

At Lewis’ trial, though, prosecutor Christopher Lamerio spent considerable time laying out other crimes by bakery members, including Bey IV’s involvement in the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey less than three months after the kidnapping.

Appellate justices ruled that Lewis’ lawyer, Patrick Hetrick, did not do enough to object to Lamerio’s tactics. They also raised doubts about the testimony of Bey V and Joshua Bey, writing that Lewis was convicted “mainly on the basis of thinly corroborated testimony of accomplices who received substantial benefits for their testimony.”

They ordered a new trial, leading to Tuesday’s plea.

It marks the second time Lewis has avoided a long prison term. In 2008, a San Francisco jury found him not guilty of murder during a drug robbery, but convicted his co-defendant, who was sentenced to life.

It was while awaiting that trial that Lewis met Bey IV in the San Francisco Jail, where he was being held on vehicular assault charges. After his acquittal, Lewis moved to Oakland and joined the bakery, a self-described religious order and self-help organization prosecutors said was a front for a wide tangling criminal enterprise.

Lewis soon convinced another San Franciscan, Devaughndre Broussard, to join him. It was Broussard, then 19, who shot and killed Bailey on Aug. 2, 2007, eventually testifying that Bey IV had convinced him to kill the journalist because he was working on a story about the bakery.

Bey IV was eventually convicted of ordering Bailey and two other men killed. He and a co-defendant were each sentenced to multiple life sentences without parole. Their appeals are pending.

Follow Thomas Peele on twitter @thomas_peele.


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