A state Bar Court judge has recommended that an attorney who represented former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV be suspended from practicing law for two years for smuggling from jail an alleged hit list of witnesses in Bey’s murder case.
Judge Pat McElroy said in her 16-page ruling that Lorna Brown’s “misconduct significantly harmed the administration of justice” because “witnesses were understandably frightened and one requested and received witness protection protocols.”
But McElroy said she doesn’t recommend that Brown, 67, should be permanently disbarred because she has no prior record of discipline in 22 years of practicing law and eventually admitted what she did and expressed remorse.
Brown’s recognition of wrongdoing “assures the court that her misconduct is unlikely to reoccur,” McElroy said.
Brown’s attorney, Vicky Young, asked for a six-month suspension for Brown at the end of a three-day hearing on the matter in April but State Bar prosecutor Robin Brune asked for her to be disbarred.
It will be up to the California Supreme Court to finalize McElroy’s recommendation.
Technically, McElroy recommended that Brown be suspended for four years but she said the execution of her suspension should be stayed and that she actually should only be suspended for two years.
Brown formerly represented Bey, who was convicted in 2011 of three counts of murder for ordering the executions of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men in Oakland in 2007.
Brown admitted to two State Bar charges that she smuggled documents out of Bey’s cell at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on March 8, 2010, and lied to investigators in an interview a month later.
The smuggled papers included a sealed greeting card for Bey’s common-law wife that turned out to contain instructions for destroying evidence.
The materials also included transcripts for three key prosecution witnesses. State Bar prosecutors alleged that the transcripts were annotated in Bey’s handwriting and contained instructions to Bey lieutenant Gary Popoff to intimidate or eliminate the witnesses.
However, Brown testified that she thought the sealed greeting card was a message of reconciliation and she didn’t know about the alleged handwritten instructions.
McElroy said in her ruling that Brown “was ashamed and embarrassed about her misconduct” and “she described lying in bed crying and feeling that she gave her children a reason to be ashamed of her.”
McElroy said Brown “knew it was wrong to take the card out of the jail but did it out of the sympathy she felt for her client (Bey).”
However, she said Brown clearly “now understands the gravity of her misconduct.”
Young couldn’t be reached for comment today on McElroy’s recommendation.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News