The saga of Marion Barry and his Jaguars continues

August 4, 2014

D.C. Council member Marion Barry says he is pleased to have the new Ballou Senior High School and community center in Ward 8 as he speaks during the “topping-out” ceremony on July 15. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Nine years ago, Marion Barry was asked in a Washington Post Q&A about the best car he’d ever had.

“Jaguar,” Barry replied, even though he was driving a Mercedes-Benz at the time.

Since then, Barry has returned to his favorite luxury marque, and controversy has invariably followed. When he found himself in a traffic mishap Saturday night in his silver 2002 X-Type sedan — for which Barry was cited for driving an unregistered vehicle, failure to show proof of insurance and driving on the wrong side of the road and was briefly hospitalized — it was only the latest in a long string of newsworthy events involving Barry and the Jaguars he’s favored over the years:

March 2002: Barry, amid open mulling of a D.C. Council run, is stopped by U.S. Park Police in the Buzzard Point area of Southwest Washington, where officers found traces of marijuana and cocaine in his Jaguar. The amounts were too small to support criminal charges, but the incident delayed Barry’s political comeback by two years.

July 2002: Barry’s Jag gets booted: The Washington Post’s Reliable Source reported that “Barry was spotted near 19th and R streets NW in the act of discovering that his late-model Jaguar sedan had been booted — right on the left front tire. Hizexonner angrily kicked the tire and walked away — presumably to catch a cab to Traffic Adjudication.”

December 2010: After years spent driving a Mercedes and a BMW, Barry again embraces British luxury. And shortly after acquiring a 2002 Jaguar X-Type, it is stolen from a street in his home ward after he reportedly left the keys in the ignition. The car was recovered nearby three days later.

March 2011: WJLA-TV reports that Barry had his Jag booted after racking up nine unpaid parking tickets totaling $705 in fines. Barry told reporter Sam Ford it was “no big thing” and paid up to free the boot.

March 2011: The Washington Post reports that Barry has been driving the 2002 Jaguar on “inactive” D.C. license plates. Those tags has been registered to a BMW that Barry previously drove, but while the plates were transferred, the Jaguar was not registered. Barry blamed the issue on a paperwork issue with his car dealer on New York Avenue NE, and the car was subsequently duly registered.

August 2011: A Post reporter spotted Barry driving the Jaguar with its rear bumper dragging across the pavement. He explained that a hit-and-run driver had smashed into the car while it was parked near his home in Ward 8. “When you live in the ghetto, this happens,” Barry said.

November 2011: A reader of the PoPville blog snapped a photo of the Jaguar parked in front of a fire hydrant on Eighth Street SE in Capitol Hill.

As for Saturday’s incident, a spokeswoman for Barry said a “hypoglycemic attack” was responsible for the collision near 28th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, which put Barry in a hospital for a few hours and won him and the Jag another round of headlines. The spokeswoman, LaToya Foster, could not immediately say Monday why Barry was cited for driving an unregistered vehicle and failing to show proof of insurance.

A Carfax report retrieved Monday showed that the car’s D.C. registration was renewed in May. Araz Alali, a police spokesman, said it is possible that the car could be registered but Barry did not have the registration card with him.

On Monday morning, Barry directed a critical tweet at the D.C. police: “So instead of protecting people, I’m advised that @DCPoliceDept called news media to come film my hypoglycemic attack & accident? Sad.”

Gwendolyn Crump, the department’s communications director, said any such media alert would be against Metropolitan Police Department policy. “If someone has information about an MPD officer violating policy, we will investigate it,” she said in an e-mail. “Our Public Information Office did however respond to specific media inquiries, as usual, with general information.”

The tweet was deleted from Barry’s account by Monday afternoon.

Peter Hermann contributed to this report.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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