Bey's lawyer wants to move murder trial to another county 

Lawyers for former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and co-defendant Antoine Mackey say they want to have their clients' upcoming triple-murder trial moved away from Alameda County because "massive and pervasive" news coverage has jeopardized their right to a fair trial.

In a change of venue motion filed last week and made public today, Gene Peretti, who represents Bey, and Gary Sirbu, who represents Mackey, said prospective jurors "are confronted by an intense and prolonged media blitz graphically and dramatically describing three separate murders allegedly orchestrated by the young religious leader of a cult-like criminal organization that has terrorized its citizens for decades."

The reference is to Bey, 24, who is accused of ordering the murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey on Aug. 2, 2007, because Bailey was working on a story about the financial problems at the bakery, which was founded by Bey's father, Yusuf Bey, in 1968.

Bey is also accused of ordering the fatal shootings of 31-year-old Odell Robertson Jr. in Oakland on July 8, 2007, and of 36-year-old Michael Wills in Oakland on July 12, 2007.

Bey and Mackey, a 24-year-old bakery associate, are each charged with three counts of murder for the deaths of the three men.

The bakery closed in late 2007 after it went bankrupt.

Peretti and Sirbu said a recent survey of more than 400 potential jurors in Alameda that was conducted by jury expert Bryan Edelman of Alamo found that 70 percent of those who recognized the case said they think Bey is guilty and only 2.6 percent think he is not guilty. They said 54 percent of those surveyed who knew about the case said they think Mackey is guilty.

"The survey data strongly suggests that the massive and continual news surge experienced by potential jurors in Alameda County has created a reasonable likelihood that Mack and Bey IV cannot get a fair trial here," Peretti and Sirbu said in their motion.

They suggested that one possibility would be to move the case to Los Angeles, as only 18.5 percent out of 200 potential jurors there said they knew about the case but 83 percent of potential jurors in Alameda County said they were familiar with it.

But Alameda County prosecutors Melissa Krum and Greg Dolge said in a response filed late today that the change of venue motion is "premature" because they believe media coverage has been "severely overstated" by the defense and they don't think the defense has proved that Bey and Mackey can't get a fair trial locally.

Krum, who recently became the lead prosecutor in the case, and Dolge said they are "confident that a fair jury can and will be selected in Alameda County"" and if any problems emerge during jury selection the defense can renew their motion at that time.

The prosecutors noted that although the third anniversary of Bailey's death was on Aug. 2, it "came and went without any reporting from mainstream news sources."

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson will hold a brief hearing on Aug. 23 to arrange the schedule for a hearing on a change of venue motion.

Krum said the tentative plan is to have the hearing on the following two days, Aug. 24 and 25.

Sirbu first raised the possibility of filing a change of venue motion last fall but he and Peretti didn't get around to filing the motion until last week, partly due to a number of complications in the case.

Peretti didn't begin representing Bey until April 30. He replaced Lorna Brown, who has represented Bey and his father in many cases over the years and is now the subject of an investigation into whether she passed notes from Bey that ordered a bakery associate to kill witnesses in his murder case.

The associate, Gary Popoff, was recently returned to state prison for allegedly violating his parole for a previous conviction by participating in the alleged plot against witnesses.

At a hearing on July 20 Sirbu said he needed more time to file the venue motion because he had been in poor health.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero had been prosecuting the case, but he recently dropped out of the case because he wants to spend more time with his family.

Krum said Jacobson wants the case to go to trial before the end of the year but it's unclear at this time when it will start.

The defense's venue motion says "many political factors have intruded upon this case" and "news reports have noted the political influence the bakery wielded over local politicians like Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who attempted to keep the bakery out of bankruptcy."

But Krum and Dolge said "the case has generated little or no political controversy and there has been no lasting political fallout."

They said there's no evidence "to suggest that any political controversy is likely to be generated or affected by the trial."

Prosecutors also said Bey "certainly was not the sort of 'friendless in the community' defendant whom pretrial publicity can most prejudice."

Krum and Dolge said, "Indeed, right up until his arrest in this case, he (Bey) appeared to have connections to, and the support of, local politicians in attempts to work out the bakery's financial problems."

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