In Oakland, Progress in Bailey Murder Prosecution

Original story ran on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ blog.

The murderers of journalists around the globe presume they won’t get caught. Unfortunately, they’re often right: Only one case in 10 results in any convictions; just one in 20 results in convictions of those who ordered the murder. For more than a year it seemed like the August 2007 slaying of U.S. journalist Chauncey Bailey might not result in the prosecution of all those involved, including the suspected mastermind. Now, however, due largely to the persistence of Bailey’s Bay Area colleagues, an indictment of suspects, including the alleged mastermind, may come soon.

The expected indictments are based in part on the ongoing grand jury testimony by one man who, for the past 20 months has been the only suspect charged with the murder. His statements to authorities have been reported by The San Francisco Chronicle as well as a group of journalists known as the Chauncey Bailey Project that was formed in the wake of the murder. Last week both outlets also reported that Oakland, California police authorities, including the lead detective on the case and two of his superiors, have come under administrative investigation.

The killers of journalists in many less developed nations often work in collusion with corrupt government officials, CPJ research has long shown. For more than a year irregularities in the Oakland police investigation into the murder of one of the Bay area’s most respected community journalists rivaled the botched or compromised murder investigations in nations from Mexico to Mozambique.

Take Sgt. Derwin Longmire, the homicide detective in the Bailey murder case. The Oakland Police Department assigned him to lead the investigation, even though his superiors knew the detective was closely associated with a man then suspected of multiple crimes, Yusuf Bey IV, and whom a grand jury is now considering indicting on charges of ordering the journalist’s murder.

“It’s unusual but not unethical,” then-Assistant Chief Howard Jordan told Anderson Cooper of CBS News’ “60 Minutes” in February 2008. In an interview today with CPJ, Jordan said he has reconsidered his position.

“The allegations as to Sgt. Longmire were not [then] available,” now-Acting Chief Jordan told CPJ. “I felt he was the best officer for the job,” he added. “I have changed my position on that.”

Sgt. Longmire and two of his superior officers, Lt. Ersie Joyner, the former head of the homicide unit, and Deputy Chief Jeff Loman are each under administrative investigation, Jordan told CPJ. All three officers face possible disciplinary action for their handling or supervision of the Bailey murder case.

Grand jury indictments are expected soon, and they may include Bey. In testimony before the grand jury this week, gunman Devaughndre Broussard said he committed the killing at the behest of Bey, his boss at an Oakland establishment called “Your Black Muslim Bakery,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“Broussard,” Jordan told CPJ, “is affirming the things that we’ve suspected all along.”

Then why did it take more than 20 months to finally prepare a case against him? “We’ve said that Mr. Bey is a suspect,” Jordan said. “But we didn’t have enough information then to charge Mr. Bey.”

Jordan declined comment on other irregularities in the Oakland police investigation, many of which were brought to light by journalists reporting for the Chauncey Bailey Project.

Broussard was part of the kitchen crew of “Your Black Muslim Bakery,” an Oakland establishment that Bey, 23, inherited from his late father. The bakery’s ownership and staff have long been linked through felony convictions and press reports to crimes including extortion, fraud, car theft, sexual abuse of minors, assault, and murder. Bey was already wanted on various felony charges and was under police surveillance at the time of Bailey’s murder. Bailey was investigating the finances of the bakery at the time of his death.

This week, Broussard told the grand jury that Bey ordered him to take sole responsibility for the Bailey murder, according to Broussard’s attorney, La Rue Grim, who was quoted in the Chronicle. Broussard had previously confessed to the crime but said he had acted alone. Now Broussard is negotiating a plea agreement for his different roles in murdering the journalist and two other men, the Chauncey Bailey Project reported. The grand jury is weighing whether to indict Bey along with another young man associated with the bakery, Antoine Mackey, in Bailey’s murder. Bey’s attorney, Anne Beles, told the Chronicle that Bey had nothing to do with the murder. Mackey has yet to respond to news reports about his alleged involvement.

Chauncey Bailey had just been promoted to editor of the Post Newspaper Group, a consortium of African-American-owned weekly newspapers focusing on the Bay area’s black communities when he was shot dead one morning on the way to his office. Immediately after, police raided the bakery and arrested Bey and other suspects on unrelated charges of kidnapping and assault, including the torture of women. But police charged only Broussard in Bailey’s murder.

Sgt. Longmire then did something that, on the face of it, seems highly irregular. The homicide detective put the murder suspect, Broussard, in a closed interrogation room with his former boss, Bey, then incarcerated on other charges. Sgt. Longmire allowed the two suspects to speak to each other alone without recording their conversation.

The police action seems even odder in the face of other evidence uncovered by Bailey’s colleagues. The Chauncey Bailey Project obtained Bey’s cell phone records, reporting that they show that Bey made a series of calls to his bakery associates and others within minutes of Bailey’s murder. The project also reported that other police detectives investigating crimes prior to Bailey’s murder had placed a tracking device on Bey’s car, and that the device placed the car outside Bailey’s apartment building the night before his murder.

For more than a year, however, Oakland police charged only Broussard with the crime, suggesting that he murdered Bailey on his own. Only in response to a series of investigative reports by the Chauncey Bailey Project did the police finally admit, in November 2008, that they had suspected Bey of being involved in the murder “within the first 24 hours of our investigation.”

The evidence produced by the project and other Bay-area news outlets included a video of Bey speaking with other suspects associated with the bakery in a different interrogation room in a nearby police department. The video was recorded by the San Leandro Police Department just four days after Bailey’s murder. On it, Bey says he put the gun used to kill Bailey in his closet after the shooting. He mocks the fatal blast to the journalist’s head. He boasts that Longmire was protecting him from being charged, and that together he and Longmire decided to blame Broussard alone for the murder. Bey later said in an interview, according to the project, that he made up stories to mislead police in the interrogation room conversation captured on video.

Last November, in response to reporting by the project, both the city of Oakland and the state of California opened separate oversight investigations into the Oakland Police Department’s murder investigation. Longmire was also removed from the case and reassigned to patrol duty, according to recent news reports. The head of the homicide unit, Lt. Ersie Joyner, was also removed from the unit and put on patrol duty.

Acting Chief Jordan told CPJ that Lt. Joyner’s transfer from the homicide unit was “part of an overall transfer of lieutenants” within the department and that it had nothing to do with the Bailey murder investigation.

Longmire was put on paid leave last week while he is under administrative investigation, Jordan said. Deputy Chief Loman has been on paid leave since February on unrelated charges of sexual harassment.

The Local Newsman – A CPJ Special Report By Frank Smyth

Original story ran on the Committee to Protect Journalists website

OAKLAND, California–The newsman was hard to forget. He carried a handheld camera to record interviews. While on the cell phone, he scribbled notes on yellow Post-its, sticking them one by one up his arm. He asked not only the first, but often the toughest question at many press conferences. He invariably wore a collared shirt and tie even when taking a homeless man to breakfast, as he had done the August 2 morning he was gunned down three blocks from his office at the Post Newspaper Group, an African-American-owned consortium of local weeklies focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area’s black communities.

The brazen daylight murder of Chauncey Bailey may seem like an aberration because it happened in the United States. But his case looks a lot like the hundreds of other journalist slayings that have occurred around the world in the past 15 years.

Much like Bailey, most journalists killed on the job are local reporters digging into corruption and crime. Bailey was by all accounts fearless in pursuing such stories.

“Chauncey didn’t believe in alluding to anything,” his publisher, Paul Cobb, told CPJ in an interview at the offices of the Oakland Post. “He went right to it.”

Moreover, the murder of a journalist in the United States, though rare over the past decade, is not as unusual as one might think. (Two U.S. journalists were among those who died while on duty in 2001: one in the World Trade Center attacks and the other in an anthrax attack.) Between 1976 and 1993, 12 journalists were assassinated in the United States. Ten out of the 12 were immigrant journalists reporting in their first language (Vietnamese, French, Chinese, or Spanish) to immigrant communities, and all but a few of those murders remain unsolved.

One murder that was prosecuted was that of Don Bolles, a reporter for the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic who died in a car bomb explosion in 1976. This watershed crime drew other reporters from around the nation to Phoenix, where they reported literally in the murdered journalist’s tracks. Not only did their combined coverage help authorities convict a mob-linked contractor in Bolles’ murder, but their act of solidarity also led to the formation of the nonprofit advocacy group Investigative Reporters and Editors. Ongoing coverage of the Bailey murder by the late newsman’s own Oakland Post (Bailey had just been promoted to editor-in-chief of this and other Post newspapers), along with reporting by The Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Village Voice, and other media outlets, may have already contributed to the Oakland Police Department’s investigation. One suspect is in custody, and authorities have said they are investigating possible accomplices. Still, critics such as Cobb maintain that authorities have failed to cover all angles, including interviewing at least one eyewitness.

The suspect in custody, Devaughndre Broussard, helped cook and clean at Your Black Muslim Bakery, a one-time hub of Oakland community activism whose surviving owners and staff have since been tied to various criminal activities–including charges filed after the murder that involve the alleged kidnapping and torture of two women in May. Broussard allegedly confessed to shooting Bailey, although his attorney has since maintained the purported confession was made under duress. Broussard reportedly said he was motivated by Bailey’s ongoing investigations of the bakery’s finances and other activities, a story of importance to the local community but one that had drawn the attention of few other news outlets.

The slaying–three shots fired from a sawed-off shotgun, across the street from a day care center and next to the parking lot of the main public library–shocked a community in which Bailey, a twice-divorced father of a 13-year-old son, lived and worked. “His ethos was anything and everything black,” Cobb said, adding that Bailey was dogged no matter whether he was investigating allegations about a local drug dealer or a pimping policeman.

He was hardest, perhaps, on politicians. “One thing stands out: He was always there,” Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums told an overflowing crowd at Bailey’s funeral. “Whether he was the lone journalist on a sunny spring Saturday in Oakland, watching several hundred children participate in a track meet, or in a large media event, there he was–camera in one hand, tape recorder in another, listening carefully, asking the first question, setting the tone.”

Cobb reminded fellow journalists at a memorial dinner for the slain newsman that there is still work to be done. He urged reporters to keep close tabs on the ongoing police investigation of the murder, and to make individual and collective efforts to continue covering stories of importance to the community. That was Bailey’s trademark and the reason he was so widely respected.

Frank Smyth, CPJ’s journalist security coordinator, helped create CPJ’s database of all journalist deaths since 1992.