Drop charges against Barry, Arundel NAACP branch urges

Assault, exposure case said to be politically based

April 11, 2001|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County's NAACP branch wants local prosecutors to drop misdemeanor assault and exposure charges against former Washington Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr., echoing his own view that the case is politically motivated.

But a spokeswoman for State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said that the jury trial in Circuit Court on Tuesday will go on as planned and that the prosecutor is "between a rock and a hard place."

"If we drop the case, it would be alleged we dropped the case because he is the former mayor of Washington, D.C.," said Kristin Riggin. "No matter what step is taken, it would be construed as being because he is who he is. We are handling this case as we would handle any other case of this nature."

The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People disagrees.

"It is difficult to believe that Mayor Barry would be subject to the public humiliation of a trial, if he were not a well-known former elected official," wrote Gerald G. Stansbury, the chapter's president, in a letter to Weathersbee.

Barry is African-American. According to Riggin, so is the custodian who claims Barry exposed himself to her in a men's bathroom at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last summer.

Custodian Terry Jenkins of Baltimore complained that Barry shoved her July 6 in a restroom that was closed for cleaning. Barry, who says she pushed him, said he desperately needed to use the bathroom and asked her to leave. He said he has to urinate more frequently since undergoing prostate cancer surgery in 1995.

Jenkins has also sued the four-term mayor for $300,000. She alleges assault and battery and "intentional infliction" of emotional distress.

The NAACP's suspicions about Weathersbee are echoed by a member of the Annapolis city council. "I feel he is witch-hunting and wanted to make a name for himself," said Alderman Samuel Gilmer.

Shortly after the incident, Riggin said, Weathersbee instructed a subordinate in an e-mail not to treat Barry differently because of his prominence: "Handle this in the same manner we would handle this if Barry had not been a celebrity."

Riggin said she doubted the case has political roots. She described Jenkins as a single mother "who doesn't have any money and is cleaning bathrooms at the airport to make ends meet."

Barry was to stand trial last month in District Court, but he asked for a jury to hear the case in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

In his letter, Stansbury restates the NAACP's frustration with Weathersbee's decision to drop charges stemming from the vandalism of the statue in Annapolis of African-American physician and politician Aris T. Allen.

A suspect was arrested, but prosecutors dropped charges when witnesses did not show up at the trial in January. The decision outraged some in the black community who questioned why more was not done to make sure witnesses testified.

The vandalism case remains under investigation, Riggin said.

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