Barry son sentenced to 18 months’ probation in drug case

The son of D.C. Council member Marion Barry was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation for drug possession Tuesday, avoiding prison time after pleading guilty in July.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin originally sentenced Marion Christopher Barry, 31, to six months in prison for a felony PCP charge and 90 days for a misdemeanor marijuana charge but suspended the sentences and ordered Barry to drug and grief counseling. Barry’s mother, Effi, died from acute myeloid leukemia at 63 in 2007; he was arrested in May.

“I am persuaded that the drugs were used to self-medicate for grief,” Morin said. “You have a significant substance abuse issue that has gone untreated since your mother’s death.”

Barry’s father, who was sentenced to six months in prison for cocaine possession in 1990, sat in the third row of the audience with his girlfriend, Sandy Bellamy. Standing before the judge, the younger Barry was apologetic.

“I apologize to the people I hurt, the community, my family and the people I work with,” he said. He said he has had a “a lot of negative items” in his life but stood before the court “a person without a clouded mind.” Father and son shook hands after the hearing and left the courtroom together.

‘He misses his mother’

In a telephone interview from Hampton, Va., Barry’s grandmother Polly Harris — Effi Barry’s mother — said her grandson started using “heavy drugs” after his mother’s death.

“He hasn’t been doing good at all,” Harris said. “He misses his mother. Even when she was sick, she would take the time and talk to him until 3 or 4 in the morning. She always had time for him.”

Barry named his four-employee housing and apartment-painting company, Efficiency Contracting, for his mother, Harris said.

Harris blamed her grandson’s drug use on Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), a former D.C. mayor.

“All of my grandson’s problems are laid right at the feet of his so-called father, Marion Barry,” Harris said. “He was never a father. He was never home.”

In early 2006, Barry discussed his struggles with drug addiction during a tax case in which he said he was clean after testing positive for marijuana and cocaine a few months before.

The elder Barry declined to comment after the hearing. Told of Harris’s comments, he issued a statement Tuesday evening, calling her assertions “totally unfounded.”

The prosecution

Marion Christopher Barry declined to comment after the sentencing. Told that a Washington Post reporter had spoken with his grandmother, he took the reporter’s card but did not offer a statement. His attorney, Frederick Cooke Jr., also declined to comment after the hearing.

Prosecutor Kathryn L. Rakoczy had asked Morin to sentence Barry to six months in prison. The prosecutor said the May incident was Barry’s sixth arrest and third conviction. Included in those are two Virginia driving violations and a misdemeanor shoplifting charge in Hampton, according to court records.

Rakoczy said Barry failed to qualify for probation because he submitted “numerous” positive drug tests and otherwise violated an agreement with prosecutors after a 2005 arrest on simple assault charges. Given a second chance, Barry fulfilled the agreement and tested negative in subsequent drug tests.

“Mr. Barry has been afforded opportunities and has not adequately learned from his mistakes in the past,” Rakoczy said.

The arrest

Barry’s latest arrest took place May 28, after neighbors reported yelling and the sound of items breaking in his apartment in the 4300 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SW, according to police charging documents.

When police arrived, according to the documents, Barry refused to open the door and jumped out of the window of the third-story apartment wearing only shorts, T-shirts and socks. Within minutes, Barry returned to the apartment and was arrested.

In the apartment, the charging documents said, police found five sandwich bags determined to contain marijuana, as well as a vial three-quarters full of a liquid later determined to be PCP. In July, Barry pleaded guilty to felony drug possession.

In court records, prosecutors said Barry later tested positive for PCP and told authorities that he had been using marijuana on a “daily” basis for “some time” and smoking PCP for about six weeks before his arrest. After his arrest, Barry tested positive twice for PCP and three times for marijuana.

Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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