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Jury Reaches Verdict In Calif. Journalist's Murder


A California jury has convicted a Black Muslim man in Oakland, in the murders of three men, including a well-known journalist. Newspaper editor Chauncey Bailey was gunned down in broad daylight on his way to work four years ago. He was the first American journalist killed for his reporting in this country in more than a decade. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES: The brazen murder of Chauncey Bailey, by three shotgun blasts in front of witnesses, shocked a city where homicides sometimes seem, sadly, routine.

Bailey was working on a story about the financial problems at a local landmark business, Your Black Muslim Bakery. The business had a long history of helping to rehabilitate black ex-cons and drug users.

Prosecutors argued that the bakery's owner and operator, Yusuf Bey IV, was worried that Bailey's story would harm the business's reputation. After ten days of deliberations, the jury found that Bey ordered Bailey's killing and that of two other men in separate incidents. The jury also convicted Antoine Mackey, the get-away driver in Bailey's murder.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said what may have once been a productive black empowerment group had degenerated into a criminal street gang.

Ms. NANCY O'MALLEY (District attorney, Alameda County): Through Bey's own action and by his direction, he has brought extreme violence to Oakland and has victimized many people and our community at large. And in his arrogance, Bey believed his was above the law until now.

GONZALES: The star witness case against Bey and Mackey was the confessed gunman, Devaughndre Broussard, an ex-employee of the bakery. But Broussard was hardly a model witness. He laughed callously about killing another man on Bey's orders. Still, DA Nancy O'Malley said sometimes you have to make a deal with the devil to get the dirt.

Yusuf Bey's court-appointed defense attorney, Gene Peretti, couldn't hide his unhappiness with the verdict.

Mr. GENE PERETTI (Attorney): First of all, I thought that perhaps the jury was not going to reach a verdict, because they'd been out so long. And it's always disappointing when your position doesn't prevail.

GONZALES: Peretti had argued that Devaughndre Broussard's testimony couldn't be believed because he had received a 25 year plea deal.

Yusuf Bey himself showed no emotion as a verdict was read but Peretti said his client was a little bit stunned.

For Chauncey Bailey's family, the verdict closes a sad and painful chapter. His cousin, Wendy Ashley-Johnson, spoke for the family.

Ms. WENDY ASHLEY-JOHNSON: It's really hard, because this all bittersweet. It's not just the three families of the victims, but it's also the Bey family and the Mackey family, as well, that's involved in this. And I feel sorry and sad for their mothers that, you know, this happened.

GONZALES: The verdict also comes as a vindication for some of Bailey's ex-colleagues. After his murder, a group of San Francisco Bay Area journalists formed what they called the Chauncey Bailey Project to investigate the killing.

Assistant DA Melissa Krum, who prosecuted the case, made it clear that this was more than a local crime story.

Ms. MELISSA KRUM (Assistant district attorney, Alameda County): And I hope that it sends the message that the First Amendment is not going to be murdered by murdering journalists, and that you cannot kill the man and expect the message to be killed.

GONZALES: Yusuf Bey IV and his accomplice, Antoine Mackey, are both 25. They face life in prison without parole. Their defense attorneys promise to appeal their convictions.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Oakland.

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WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.