Barry Tested Positive for Cocaine Use in the Fall

Yolanda Woodlee and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2006

D.C. Council member Marion Barry tested positive for cocaine use in the fall in a drug test ordered by a court after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax charges, according to two sources familiar with Barry’s case.

Barry, who served four terms as mayor and was elected to the Ward 8 council seat in 2004, has since begun treatment for drug use, the sources said, but Barry’s failure to pass the mandatory drug test puts him in legal jeopardy.

Because he violated the terms of his release, Barry, 69, faces an increased risk of serving the maximum 18 months behind bars—rather than probation—for his failure to file tax returns for six years. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 8, but a federal judge could jail him or sanction him at any time.

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Barry pleaded guilty Oct. 28 to the misdemeanor tax charges, and as a condition of being released on his own recognizance, he was required to undergo drug testing soon after, court records show. But, according to two sources close to Barry and an official familiar with his case, the court’s probation office notified U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson and prosecutors in or around November that Barry’s test result was positive for drug use. Two of the three sources said the drug was cocaine. The sources asked not to be identified because a court case is pending.

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The tax case involves Barry’s failure to pay most of his federal and D.C. income taxes for six years after his fourth term as mayor ended in January 1999. Prosecutors said he received more than $530,000 in income over the next six years but did not document most of it. Barry’s plea agreement also calls for him to make arrangements to resolve his tax debts.

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Drug problems and speculation about drug use have plagued Barry through much of the latter part of his 30-year political career. In 1990, during his third term as mayor, Barry was arrested at the Vista Hotel after being videotaped smoking crack, an image that for years has haunted him and the city he led.

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While preparing to run in 2002 for an at-large council seat, U.S. Park Police reported that they found a trace of marijuana and $5 worth of crack cocaine in Barry’s Jaguar while he was parked at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington. Police never charged Barry, who then scrapped his campaign plans. When he campaigned for a Ward 8 seat in 2004, he claimed in interviews that the Park Police planted the drugs in his car.

After he was reelected to a fourth term as mayor, Barry said in an interview with Post reporters and editors that he’d made “a remarkable recovery,” responding to the criticism by some that he had returned to the rigorous job of mayor too soon. He denied having a relapse with drugs and alcohol.

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