OAKLAND, Calif. – The former leader of a once-influential community group was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for ordering the killing of three men, including a journalist who was working on a story about the financial troubles of the organization.

Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey was the first American journalist killed on U.S. soil for reporting a story in nearly two decades.

Despite his conviction in June, the 25-year-old Bey, former head of Your Black Muslim Bakery, continued to assert his innocence in a statement read by his attorney Gene Peretti.

Bailey was gunned down in broad daylight while walking to the newspaper.

Co-defendant Antoine Mackey, also 25, a bakery supervisor, was sentenced to two life terms in prison for the murders of Bailey and Michael Wills.

“I think this is justice at its ultimate,” prosecutor Melissa Krum said of the sentencing. “There could not have been a more maximum sentence unless we had sought the death penalty.”

Founded some 40 years ago by Bey’s father, the bakery, which promoted self-empowerment, became an institution in Oakland’s black community while running a security service, school and other businesses.

In recent years, the organization was tainted by links to criminal activity.