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Marion Barry driving with ‘inactive’ D.C. license tags, records show

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The silver Jaguar that D.C. Council member Marion Barry has driven for more than six months has “inactive” District tags and is not registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, according to city records.

The documents, obtained by The Washington Post through a records request, raise questions about how Barry has continued to use his vehicle without it being scrutinized by police or city parking control officers.

The license plate on Barry’s Jaguar has been “inactive” since Sept. 29, about the time he stopped using the black BMW sedan he had been driving, according to information from the DMV.

In December, Barry (D-Ward 8) reported the 2002 Jaguar stolen, and it was recovered by police three days later and returned to him despite the apparent inactive tags. On March 1, the car was booted by parking control officers for nine unpaid parking tickets totaling $705, according to media reports. The boot was removed later that day after Barry paid six of the nine summonses.

According to the DMV, the license plate on the Jaguar belonged to the BMW before the car was sold. The BMW was sold through a dealer on New York Avenue NW to a Prince George’s County resident, according to the man who purchased it. The plate now appears on the Jaguar, but the vehicle is not registered with the DMV, the records show.

Barry initially declined to be interviewed for this story, saying: “I am not commenting on this car. I have better things to talk about.”

But on Wednesday evening, he said through a representative that the dealership from which he purchased the Jaguar had misplaced the car’s title and is working on providing one. “When he receives it, he will get the car registered,” the representative said. “When he purchased the car, he put on the valid BMW tags in lieu of having the tittle and [is] waiting until he got the title so he can have it changed over.”

The DMV released records indicating that the Jaguar’s plate was last used by a 1999 BMW with a vehicle identification number that matches the VIN on the BMW previously owned by Barry.

The Post obtained the Jaguar’s VIN from the police report filed Dec. 11 after Barry reported it stolen in Southeast Washington.

In response to The Post’s information request, David M. Glasser, general counsel for the DMV, said the agency has no record of the Jaguar’s vehicle identification number.

“The DMV is unable to honor your request because the DMV does not possess any such record,” he wrote. “A search was conducted and no information pertaining to VIN . . . was found.”

DMV Director Lucinda M. Babers said plates are usually designated “inactive” when a vehicle has been “transferred out of the system” due to a sale or when it’s given to someone else.

“Normally, once a tag is inactive, it doesn’t get reactivated,” Babers said. “You get a new tag.”

But Babers cautioned that she didn’t know enough about Barry’s car to comment further, other than to confirm that the VIN supplied by The Post “is not registered with the DC DMV” and that the license plate number is listed as “inactive.”

The D.C. Code states that it is “unlawful” for “any person to operate a vehicle . . . on any public highway” in the city that is “not registered.” Violators can be penalized by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 30 days in jail.

The CARFAX report for the Jaguar indicates that it last changed possession April 26, 2010, when it was sold at auction in Pennsylvania. Because it is not registered with the DMV, it cannot be determined from which dealership Barry purchased the car.

Barry said Wednesday evening that he purchased the car from a dealership on New York Avenue. He most likely would not have paid the city’s excise tax on auto sales without the DMV having a record of the vehicle identification number, according to city officials and local car dealers.

Several District car dealers said consumers pay the tax at the DMV when they register their vehicles.

“When you buy a car, I give you the title and then you take it downtown to DMV,” said Troy Huntley of Huntley Limited in Southeast Washington. “Let’s say you buy the car for $2,000. I give you the bill of sale, and you take the bill of sale to DMV and they assess the taxes on the purchase price of the car.”

Instead of a registration sticker, the front window of the Jaguar contains a printout of a “temporary registration card.” The paper states that the temporary card is valid for 45 days. But spaces to list the issued date, vehicle description, name of dealership, VIN and authorizing agent are blank.

In response to questions, police spokesman Gwendolyn Crump said Wednesday that the department was aware in December that the plate was not registered. She said that the Jaguar was released to Barry but that an officer told him the vehicle could not be driven until it was registered.

Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, said the agency’s parking enforcement officers “do not know when a tag is in inactive status.”

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