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JR Valrey Is an Agent Provocateur

The KPFA producer is not your typical police reporter. He grew close to accused criminal Yusuf Bey IV. He was arrested for arson in the Oakland riots. Now he's speaking up for cop killer Lovelle Mixon.

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So what were the phone calls about? Valrey told the Express that he was calling Bey IV to talk about the case of one Laronte Studdesville, whom he described as a victim of police brutality. A meeting with Studdesville's father had been scheduled for the following day, and Valrey was inviting Bey to attend.

Valrey's editor, Mary Ratcliff, confirms that assertion. "What JR does is very much in the tradition of the Panthers," Ratcliff said. "He looks to the street — or gangs, as the police would call it — and sees that these guys are doing political organizing and they don't even know it. Maybe their intentions aren't always that great, but many of these gangs legitimately started out to protect their neighborhoods and their communities. If we could just politicize them, imagine what we could do. That's what JR's always tried to do, but that doesn't make him a gangster. I know that he had been trying to recruit Yusuf for months, telling him that there are better ways of doing things, and that's what those calls were about."

But if this was a business call, then why did it come so late at night?

"I don't remember it being around midnight," Valrey said. "It may have been around 10. We don't have a bedtime, neither me nor Yusuf Bey, as far as I know. To speak for myself, I don't have a bedtime, so we don't just stick to white business time, 9 to 5. I just don't make calls in those times and I don't think that calling someone at 12:00 implicates me in anything.

"I think that I effectively poked a lot of holes in where they were basically trying to implicate me in a murder that I'm not involved in, in any way," Valrey said. "But it also shows the weakness in their journalism, shows the laziness in their journalism. I did a very shallow investigation and poked holes all throughout what they were saying in the article I was in."

Valrey says he believes that Bey had nothing to do with Bailey's killing. "They're treating them as criminals and they're trying to be the judge and the jury."

The murder of Chauncey Bailey appears to most observers to have been based upon the notion that imminent reporting from Bailey would threaten the interests of the bakery. But Bailey was hardly a probing investigative reporter; in fact, he was widely criticized in journalism circles for how cozy he often was with his subjects. Valrey advances an equally improbable notion: that it was Bailey's ongoing efforts to expose Oakland police corruption that led to his death.

"At the time of his murder, Chauncey Bailey and Yusuf Bey were both in my phone," Valrey said, adding that he and Bailey had a good relationship. "I also know that Chauncey Bailey was working on a story dealing directly with the police."

Valrey maintains that the Chauncey Bailey Project hasn't done enough to pursue leads that Bailey was looking into police corruption at the time of his death, and has suggested not only that Bailey's murder was a police cover-up for which Bey was a scapegoat, but also that the Chauncey Bailey Project is in fact a front for the police.

Bob Butler, a reporter with the Chauncey Bailey Project and president of the Bay Area Black Journalists Association, denies Valrey's suggestion that the project is in cahoots with the police. He said the project has found no evidence implicating the Oakland police in the murder. "The last story Chauncey wrote was about the bakery. He may have been looking into possible police corruption, but we have seen no evidence to verify that claim," Butler said. "I'd be very interested to see evidence that the police were responsible for Chauncey Bailey's murder." Butler points out that the Chauncey Bailey Project published evidence last June showing that Bey admitted that he kept the shotgun used to kill Bailey in his closet after the murder. That information can be found at ChaunceyBaileyProject.org.

But this is not evidence enough for Valrey. "I think that the Chauncey Bailey Project really speaks to the disconnect between the journalist world and the real world," he said. "You have the bigwigs in mainstream journalism coming together and of course they're going to pat themselves on the back for doing a good job. But the question still remains: They did all this, and they wrote all this about Yusuf Bey, but he's not even charged yet, so really the question comes, how effective are you? Because you guys work hand-in-hand with the police, obviously. I'm not going to talk to the police, whether it's through the Chauncey Bailey Project or whether it's through a uniformed officer. If I have anything to say, I'll say it in the San Francisco Bay View or on Block Report Radio."


KPFA has a long tradition of giving a voice to viewpoints otherwise ignored in the mainstream media. Like Valrey, many of the station's contributors have an agenda. Although some staffers dutifully adhere to the same journalistic standards embraced by mainstream journalists, others have less interest in reporting the news than in giving voice to the perceived underdog. Many of these advocacy journalists are, like Valrey, unpaid volunteer producers.

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