Barry Tested Positive for Cocaine Use In the Fall

By Yolanda Woodlee and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 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.

Barry, interviewed last night in his Howard University Hospital room, where he's being treated for hypertension, said he did not deny accounts of his drug test and treatment but declined to discuss his case. "Write what you want to write," he told a Washington Post reporter. "That's my official quote. No more, no less."

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.

Robinson has not revoked Barry's bond or ordered him jailed pending sentencing, as she could have because of the drug infraction, court records say. Nor did prosecutors seek to cancel their plea agreement with Barry, in which they had said they would not oppose his effort to seek probation at sentencing.

It's not unusual for defendants to fail drug tests and remain free while awaiting sentencing, court officials said. Judges sometimes will order them to undergo treatment or submit to more frequent testing.

Barry's attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., sought for Barry to undergo drug treatment to show in the weeks before sentencing that his failed drug test was a relatively minor, one-time infraction of his release terms, according to a law enforcement source. The goal would be to avoid having Barry arrested for failing to comply with his release terms and to avoid tougher sentencing for the tax crimes.

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.

Cooke declined to comment yesterday on Barry's status. Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District, said yesterday that he would neither confirm nor deny that Barry had violated a condition of his release.

"We will decline to comment until we are back before the court since it is pending sentencing," Phillips said.

Barry was in the news last week when he held a news conference to describe an incident in which he was robbed in his kitchen Jan. 2 by two assailants who helped him carry groceries to his third-floor apartment in Southeast Washington. They pointed a gun at Barry's face and stole his wallet, which police said contained more than $200, his driver's license and two credit cards.

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