Barry gets six-month prison sentence

October 27, 1990|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge brushed aside Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr.'s plea for leniency yesterday, sentencing him to six months in prison only 11 days before voters decide whether to give him four years on the City Council.

Mr. Barry, who was also fined $5,000, was convicted Aug. 10 of a single count of misdemeanor cocaine possession, a crime that rarely results in jail time for first offenders.

But U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, citing Mr. Barry's prominence in a city besieged by drug-related crime and high rates of addiction, said: "Having failed as the good example he might have been, the defendant must now become an example of another kind."

He stopped short of the maximum one-year sentence and $100,000 fine because he said Mr. Barry's admitted drug addiction and alcoholism made him "a victim as well as a perpetrator."

Mr. Barry took the news standing, his back to the gallery as he faced the judge 10 feet away.

Neither he nor his wife and mother, seated in the gallery, reacted visibly or made a sound as the judge spoke, and Mr. Barry said nothing to

reporters as he left the courthouse to return to his mayoral office.

But later in the day he said, "I should have been shocked and stunned, but I'm not. I understand that there are different sets of standards for different people, and that's the American injustice system."

His attorney, R. Kenneth Mundy, vowed to appeal the sentence and the lone guilty verdict.

Mr. Barry was found not guilty of another possession charge, and a mistrial was declared on 12 other charges -- three of them felony perjury counts -- when the jury was unable to reach a verdict after eight days of deliberations.

Though Mr. Mundy wouldn't comment directly on the severity of Judge Jackson's sentence, he criticized the decision in a roundabout way, comparing Mr. Barry's case to that of Michael K. Deaver.

Mr. Deaver, a White House aide-turned lobbyist during the Reagan administration, received no jail sentence from Judge Jackson in 1988 despite a conviction on three felony counts of perjury. The judge instead fined Mr. Deaver $100,000 and ordered him not to lobby for three years.

If the verdict was bitter medicine for Mr. Mundy, it was a balm of sorts for the leader of his opposition, U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens, especially after his assistants produced only one guilty verdict despite linking Mr. Barry to hundreds of instances of cocaine use in hotels, houses, apartments, government buildings, restaurants and boats.

In a pre-sentencing memorandum, Mr. Stephens said that Mr. Barry had shown a "flagrant disre

gard for the law and seriously impugned the integrity" of the mayor's office.

"In short, the defendant is not genuinely remorseful about his criminality. He is sorry only that he got caught."

But Mr. Mundy argued yesterday that Mr. Barry was indeed remorseful. He said that sentencing Mr. Barry to community service would allow him to clean himself up as an example to others.

"If he can rise from the ashes," Mr. Mundy said, "then he'll be a far

better role model than perhaps he would have been if he'd never sinned at all."

Mr. Barry also pitched in, speaking up in the courtroom for the first time since his trial began. "If I appear to be nervous, I am," he said, stepping before the judge. "My stomach is in knots."

He then called his actions "out of character," and said that since his arrest last Jan. 18 he has led "an exemplary life. . . . I stand here truly remorseful and ask this court to impose community service as a sentence."

But Judge Jackson quickly served notice that Mr. Barry was in for more than community service, opening his remarks by saying, "Of greatest significance to me is the high public office he has held. His breach of public trust alone warrants an enhanced sentence."

The judge also criticized "what I perceive to have been the defendant's efforts . . . to induce the jury to disregard the law and the evidence," and he also, in an unusual move, scolded the jury for its response.

"The jurors will have to answer to themselves and to their fellow citizens for the way in which they discharged their duty," he said.

Mr. Barry won't go to jail (his destination will be determined by the federal Bureau of Prisons) until his appeals of the verdict and the sentence are exhausted, which Mr. Mundy said could take a year. That means he'll probably be able to serve the last few months of his term as mayor.

He also would be able to fill an at-large seat on the City Council if heis one of the top two vote-getters Nov. 6. City law prevents only incarcerated felons from holding office.

el,.5l Political oddsmakers expect a close race, and Mr. Barry said yesterday that he's in the contest to stay. "Absolutely," he said. "Why not?"

Besides the fine and prison sentence, Mr. Barry will also be on probation for a year after he gets out of jail, and during that time he will be subject to unscheduled drug tests.

The judge also ordered Mr. Barry to pay the costs of his incarceration.

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