OAKLAND (BCN) – A member of the now-defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the kidnapping and torture of two women three years ago.

Prosecutors said the May 17, 2007 crime was a bungled attempt to get money to save the bakery from bankruptcy, which faced a foreclosure hearing four days later. The bakery went bankrupt and closed its doors later that year.

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At a five-week trial that ended back on April 7, Richard Lewis, a 26-year-old former football star at Mission High School in San Francisco, was convicted of kidnapping, torture and carjacking.

Lewis’s sentencing was delayed several times, partly because his attorney, Patrick Hetrick, said Lewis should get a new trial because bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV was overheard in jail boasting that he had set up Lewis to take the fall in the case.

However, at a hearing in July, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon denied Hetrick’s request to examine thousands of hours of Bey’s tape-recorded calls from jail, saying Hetrick hadn’t shown how it was in Bey’s interest to implicate Lewis in the kidnapping.

Hetrick made another bid at an hour-long hearing Friday to win a new trial for Lewis on several other grounds, including his belief that Reardon made errors when he gave legal instructions to the jury, but Reardon again denied the defense’s motion.

Prosecutor Chris Lamiero told jurors in his closing argument in the case that Lewis joined Bey IV and several other bakery associates in kidnapping and torturing the two women, a mother and a daughter, so they would reveal where a drug dealer they knew kept his cash.

The bakery was founded in 1968 by Bey’s father, Yusuf Bey, who died in 2003.

Deputy District Attorney Melissa Krum, who is prosecuting Bey in a separate case in which Bey is charged with three counts of murder for the deaths of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men in the summer of 2007, wants to be allowed to introduce evidence about the kidnapping.

In a recent court filing she said evidence from the kidnapping case will help her explain to jurors why Bey wanted to have Bailey killed, as Bailey was working on a story about the bakery’s financial problems.

Krum wrote, “The fact that IV would go to the lengths of having women kidnapped and physically harmed for a few thousand dollars in cash speaks volumes about IV’s degree of desperation to save the crumbling empire his father built.”

Lamiero said Lewis cut the daughter with a knife and threatened her with a hot curling iron if she didn’t disclose where the dealer kept his money.

The woman testified that a bag was placed over her head and that she feared for her life.

Lewis testified during his trial that he didn’t have anything to do with the crime.

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Hetrick said in his closing argument that he believes Lewis was framed by Bey’s half-brothers, Joshua Bey and Yusuf Bey V, who have pleaded guilty and received promises of light sentences in exchange for testifying against Lewis.

Hetrick told jurors they shouldn’t believe the half-brothers’ testimony because they were simply trying to save themselves by incriminating Lewis.

The suspects in the kidnapping fled when an Oakland police officer who happened to be patrolling in the area where the women were being tortured at an abandoned house heard their screams and came to their rescue.

Reardon said Lewis and the other suspects demonstrated a certain level of planning and criminal sophistication, but “to some extent this was the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

Lewis is the first bakery member to stand trial in the kidnapping and torture case.

Bey IV and Tamon Halfin, another bakery associate, are slated to be tried together at a later date. They also face life in prison if they’re convicted.

But before Bey IV stands trial in the kidnapping and torture case, he and co-defendant Antoine Mackey must first stand trial in the triple-murder case.

Hearings on pretrial motions in the murder case have already begun, also in Reardon’s courtroom, but jury selection won’t start until Jan.  24 and opening statements probably won’t be presented until March.

The kidnapping and torture occurred only 15 days after a San Francisco jury acquitted Lewis of murder, attempted murder and robbery charges stemming from a March 1, 2005, fatal shooting in the 1800 block of 18th Avenue in the city’s Sunset District.

Lewis had been in custody for two years but was released after he was acquitted. He met Bey IV while he was in custody.

Hetrick said he thinks Lewis’s life sentence is “draconian” and a violation of the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But Lamiero said he believes the life sentence is “appropriate and consistent with the law.”

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