By Tim Craig and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
They didn't even make it to the Bay Bridge before the argument started.
D.C. Council member Marion Barry and his ex-girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt were on their way Saturday afternoon to Rehoboth Beach, Del., a favored destination for the recently split-up couple.
They had a spat over lunch in Annapolis, called off the weekend and headed home.
Within hours, Barry (D-Ward 8) was in jail, arrested once again by the U.S. Park Police, this time on a misdemeanor stalking charge. There are three accounts of the events that led to Barry's latest run-in with police.
There is no disagreement that the couple returned to Watts-Brighthaupt's home in Southeast Washington, where her ex-husband, Delonta Brighthaupt, was staying to watch her West Highland terrier. After some time, Barry left in one car, and Watts-Brighthaupt and Brighthaupt left in another. Both cars ended up in Anacostia Park.
It remained unclear yesterday why Barry's behavior might have warranted his arrest. Barry's attorney said the charge was "baseless."
Park Police said a woman -- presumed to be Watts-Brighthaupt -- flagged down an officer to report that a man in a vehicle was "bothering her." Watts-Brighthaupt said that she didn't flag down an officer but spoke to police immediately after Barry was pulled over and that she has agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Sgt. David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman, said he would not comment on why Barry was arrested, other than to say he gave police "probable cause."
Barry has had two previous run-ins with Park Police. In 2002, Park Police said they found traces of marijuana and crack cocaine in his car. Barry said the drugs were planted. No charges were filed. In 2006, Park Police pulled Barry over for driving too slowly and cited him for driving on a suspended license; he accused the agency of unfairly targeting him.
Details about the latest incident emerged yesterday as Barry and his attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., held a news conference on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building to tell Barry's side of the story. Cooke, who would not let Barry speak, accused Watts-Brighthaupt of "instability." Cooke said Barry will not resign his council seat because he thinks the charge is "baseless" and will be dropped.
"We believe the charge stems from a personal relationship that has gone horribly wrong," Cooke said.
In an interview yesterday, Watts-Brighthaupt, 40, reiterated that she did not want Barry to be arrested. But now, she said, she plans to cooperate with prosecutors deciding whether to move forward with the charge.
She said she was meeting with representatives of the U.S. attorney's office yesterday afternoon to hand over "all the voice mails and all the letters . . . and the threats I am getting."
"We are gathering all of the evidence," Watts-Brighthaupt said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday on whether a formal charge will be filed.
Law enforcement officials said yesterday that federal prosecutors are reviewing the matter but are not likely to proceed with the case. They cited conflicting statements in the media from Watts-Brighthaupt. The stalking charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.
Cooke said Park Police should not have arrested Barry. "Clearly, there was no stalking and there was no coercion," Cooke said.
Barry, 73, is still married to his fourth wife, Cora Masters Barry, but they have been separated since 2002.
Interviews with Barry's friends, his attorney and Watts-Brighthaupt offered a glimpse into the arrest and the complicated relationship that led to arrest.
At the Democratic National Convention in August, Barry and Watts-Brighthaupt began dating. Watts-Brighthaupt was a political consultant who was being paid to work on Barry's 2008 reelection campaign. Over the next several months, the two were spotted at charity auctions, dinners and political events.
Watts-Brighthaupt said she and Barry broke up three days before his kidney transplant in February. But the two remained in close contact. In recent weeks, however, the relationship has been strained because her ex-husband had started playing a bigger role in her life, Barry's friends said. Barry is reported to have had at least two run-ins with Brighthaupt.
In Annapolis, Watts-Brighthaupt said, she and Barry "couldn't agree on something" so she "decided to turn back around."
"He begged me not to turn around," she said. Barry's friends said the argument occurred after Watts-Brighthaupt received a call from her ex-husband.
In the ride back to Washington, she said, she told Barry that he couldn't come into her house because Brighthaupt was there. "He said my ex-husband better not be in the house. I said he better not make a scene. He said he wouldn't," Watts-Brighthaupt said.
But Watts-Brighthaupt said Barry refused to leave, sitting outside in his car or on her porch. About an hour later, Watts-Brighthaupt and Brighthaupt went to Anacostia Park to watch the fireworks.
On their drive to the park, she said, they noticed Barry following them in his car. "I wanted him to go home. I just wanted to look at the fireworks and not deal with him," Watts-Brighthaupt said.
Cooke countered: "Mr. Barry was traveling on public streets on his way home. . . . He was not following anyone."
Staff writers DeNeen Brown, Theola Labbé-DeBose, Nikita Stewart and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.