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Friday, September 12, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 16 (City on Trial)

This is the sixteenth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 15 (one of three): City on Trial

This chapter recounts the aftermath of the arrest of Marion Barry on drug-related charges in 1990.

The arrest divided the city. The authors tell of white editor of the Washington City Paper, Jack Shafer, joyously celebrating Barry's arrest in an Adams Morgan bar while a black bartender "talked quietly to the pool players, suddenly sullen, shaking their heads in disbelief. At some level, it was their loss" (Kindle location 4724).

Barry's lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, contacted US Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens.

" 'What would the mayor have to do for you to drop the charges?' Mundy asked."

"Stephens, according to Mundy, said that Barry would have to resign and make a complete public confession of his drug abuse over the years. In the heat of the moment, the white Republican appointee had shown the Barry bust to be little more than what some people suspected: a naked political takedown. Stephen's revealing demand set the tone for Barry's imminent counterattack. Though the content of that first conversation was not disclosed publicly, Barry would portray the entire investigation as politically motivated, with some justification" (l. 4745).

On January 19, 1990, the day after his arrest, Barry was arraigned at the US District Court Building on Constitution Avenue. Barry appeared with his then-wife Effi, waded through a crowd in front of courthouse, and listened to the charges against him. "That afternoon Marion Barry turned the government over to city administrator Carol Thompson and the top bureaucrats who had already been running the government for more than a year" (l. 4790).

Barry checked into the Hanley-Hazelden Center, a drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation clinic in West Palm Beach Florida. He would later move to a clinic in South Carolina.

"The Washington Post polled residents and found that nearly half of the blacks in the sample believed that federal investigators had targeted Barry because he was black, but even more said that the mayor should resign. More than 70 percent of the white polled said that Barry should step down, and the combined number favoring resignation was 57 percent" (l. 4808).

Barry returned to DC on March 13. His first appearance was a televised address from the Reeves Center. The next day, he made an unannounced stop at Washington Post building, where surprised post chair Katherine Graham trailed him through the newsroom as he shook hands with reporters. He appeared before crowds of supporters at churches.

"From the moment he set foot in the capital, every move Barry made was geared toward his trial, then just three months away. The government had the goods on him. He'd already seen himself smoking crack on the videotape of room 727, and he knew that some of this cocaine-snorting cronies were cooperating with the prosecutors/ On the facts, Barry looked very guilty, so the master politician decided to portray the FBI as the bad guys in a racist plot" (l. 4841).

Barry said: "I think the prosecutors know that in this town all it takes is one juror saying 'I'm not going to convict Marion Barry. I don't care what you say'." (l. 4850).

Jury selection began on June 4 in a circus-like atmosphere outside the courthouse, with pro- and anti-Barry zealots competing for media attention.

"The government had filed a new 14-count indictment: Eleven counts were misdemeanors alleging cocaine possession from the fall of 1984 to 1990, including four counts of possession at the Ramada Inn and one at the Vista. There were three felony counts alleging perjury before the grand jury in January 1989, immediately after the Ramada incident" (l. 4878).

"Barry was willing to plead guilty to as many as three misdemeanor counts, but he refused to admit to a felony because he'd be forced from office and face jail time. Jay Stephens demanded that Barry accept at least one felony" (l. 4879).

On June 13, Barry bowed out of the mayoral race.

"It certainly was best for Barry's case before the jurors, just then being picked and still subject to the news. In the eyes of prospective jurors, there was one less reason to penalize the mayor because he now effectively was driven from office" (l. 4887).

"Both the government and the defense team spent hours poring over the profiles of the prospective jurors. Ken Mundy relied on the analysis, the dossiers, and the instincts of Barry's chief political aide, Anita Bonds, who sat at her own table behind the defense table" (l. 4895).

"By June 18 the two sides had settled on the twelve jurors and 6 alternates. Of the twelve who would sit in judgment on Barry, ten were black and two were white, reflecting roughly the city's racial makeup. Seven of the blacks were women; both of the men were white. Anita Bonds had done her work well. Barry needed just one juror; Bones had succeeded in getting at least five dark-skinned, lower-to-middle-class blacks on the jury who fit the profile of a Barry supporter..." (l. 4903).

"The plea-bargaining negotiations continue to the eve of trial, but neither side would budge. Barry wouldn't accept a felony plea. Stephens would accept nothing less. The jury was sequestered. The trial had to go forward" (l. 4910).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

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