Chauncey Bailey Project

The Jane Does

In 2002, Yusuf Ali Bey was charged with more than two dozen counts of raping and sexually abusing four minor girls over 20 years. The 66-year-old founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery, who had built an empire of bakery outlets, dry-cleaning service, security company and real estate holdings, had won political support and admiration for turning around lives and providing jobs. For at least 30 years, however, rumors and reports to social workers and youth probation officers about his sexually abusing young girls had lingered, but were never fully investigated.

That changed in 2002, with one case involving a woman who said she was forced to bear three children of Bey’s from ages 13 to 17. In the coming months, three other women were found who had been minors under Bey’s care and who bore his children. The four women, identified as Jane Doe 1 through 4 because of the sensitive nature of the case, formed the basis for the action against Bey but were not the only ones who reported abuse.

The 27 charges that the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office filed against Bey in November 2002 have never been proven in court. Bey died of colon cancer Sept. 30, 2003, before the case went to trial.

The Chauncey Bailey Project, however, uncovered allegations that Bey had sex with children — girls and boys — for many years. The project reviewed Oakland Police Officer James Saleda’s 22-page report detailing his systematic investigation, the sworn testimony of four women who said Bey abused them, and hundreds of birth, police, court and county records, as well as interviews with at least a dozen people knowledgeable about the events. Two of the four Jane Doe plaintiffs were sisters who had been placed in Bey’s care when they were just 9 and 10 year old.

The Chauncey Bailey Project has documented 42 children fathered by Bey. In his report, Saleda noted that “a number of them were born to victims of molestation.” And, in at least one reported instance, a Jane Doe whom Bey raped when she was a minor also accused him of raping their teenage daughter.

The Jane Doe claims clash with the image of Bey offered by those who say he did years of good work among the poor and down-and-out in Oakland, and they are disputed by many in Bey’s large family who love and revere him. They accepted his promiscuity, some said, because it produced the many family members who loved and supported each other.

Still, testimony by Esperanza Johnson, known as Nora Bey when she was one of Yusuf Bey’s spiritual wives corroborates many of the claims.

Authorities defended their years of inaction by pointing out that they were rarely told about Bey’s attacks on girls and women, and that when they were, witnesses often wouldn’t testify. In some cases, complaints were raised with an agency that said it wasn’t its job to investigate. Some of the women believe it was Bey’s reputation as a powerful political figure in Oakland that protected him.

All charges pertaining to Jane Doe 1, 2 and 3 were dropped, because the statute of limitations had run out. Charges related to Jane Doe 4 were then expanded, but they were never tried after Bey died.

In 2003, after Bey’s death, Jane Doe 1, 2 and 3 brought a civil suit against Johnson and Bey’s legal wife, Farieda Bey, in addition to the Alameda County, which had overseen the care of three women when they were minors. In 2005, the judge dismissed Johnson, Farieda Bey and two social workers from the suit. The county agreed to pay each Jane Doe $50,000 to settle their claims.

Jane Doe 1, 2 and 3 declined to be interviewed for the Chauncey Bailey Project. Jane Doe 4 could not be located.

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