Marion Barry: Facing Stalking Charges
Monday, July 6, 2009; 1:30 PM
D.C. Council member Marion Barry was planning to spend July 4 in Rehoboth Beach with an ex-girlfriend but returned with the woman to Washington Saturday afternoon, hours before being arrested for allegedly stalking her, Barry's lawyer said this morning. If convicted of the stalking charge, Barry could face a year in prison and a fine up to $500, according to police sources.
Washington Post staff writers Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart were online Monday, July 6, at 1:30 ET to discuss the incident and whether it may affect his probation for not paying federal and D.C. taxes. The incident marks Barry's third run-in with the Park Police since his six-month jail term on misdemeanor drug charges in 1992.
Nikita Stewart: Welcome to our online chat. Please post your questions. We're seeing comments (or commentary) but would appreciate more questions that we can answer about this weekend's incident.
Washington, D.C.: How can some of our population support this guy as a role model for inter-city youth? (i.e., re-elect him over and over) The sad truth is that Barry is already a role model and we see evidence of this every day in our crime-ridden city.
Tim Craig: You will have to direct that question to voters in Ward 8, which includes Anacostia, Barry Farm, Congress Heights in Southeast. Barry generally earns high marks for his constituent service, and maintains deep ties to the faith community in Southeast. Although his impact on the Council is somewhat diminished in recent years, Barry can still speak passionately about crime, poverty and the need for more human services in Ward 8. Barry can also still work a crowd, despite being 73 years old.
Barry represents the part of the District that has yet to experience the new, gentrified, District of Columbia of more recent decades
Leesburg, Va,: While Barry is hardly a role model, this charge really seems like nonsense and I wonder had it not been under the USPP jurisdiction whether an arrest would have occurred.
Nikita Stewart: In the past, Barry has accused federal authorities of harassing him. That said, park police explained that the arresting officer did not recognized Barry and was not aware of his celebrity. Stalking, however, is one of those interesting charges. It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but boils down to a victim feeling harassed, threatened with violence.
Other politicians vs. Barry: Years ago, people made fun of Marion Barry's misfortunes. Now, we have so much going on between governors, senators and other elected officials, Barry looks kinda boring! I think the "my soulmate" and "trying to fall back in love with my wife" will be right up "with the.....set me up."
Nikita Stewart: Barry's story will forever be part of history, particularly since his arrest with the famous quote occurred during this country's "war on drugs." But politicians' personal lives continue to fascinate the public. They are human, but they run our cities, states, country. I believe constituents still hold them to a higher standard.
Arlington, Va.: This is Barry's third run in with the Park Police since 2002 (suspected drug use in his car, driving without a valid license, misdemeanor bothering/stalking)? Does anyone think that the D.C. police aren't catching him doing similar things but looking the other way because of who he is?
Tim Craig: This is an interesting question. Barry supporters will argue that the Park Police have it out for the former mayor. Park Police maintain that the arresting officer on Saturday did not even realize whom he was arresting. Some have suggested that Barry hire a driver to guard against future encounters with police...May not be a bad idea, but then the question would become how could he afford a driver when he can't pay his taxes on time?
Washington, D.C.: How is this man still in office after not paying D.C. taxes? I get federal taxes not being paid, but he's on the City Council. Is this representation without taxation?
Nikita Stewart: Barry is an elected official. If a majority of his constituents considered his nonpayment of taxes a major issue, he might not be in office. Many people in Ward 8, which he represents, can remember him as mayor and believe he helped this city in many ways. He had an easy re-election last year and is only in the first year of this four-year term. Maybe we'll see a change in the political wind if he runs again in 2012. But it's too early to tell.
Leesburg, Va.: What is worst-case scenario for him? Is the probation violation potentially a larger issue than the stalking charge?
Tim Craig: Yes. The probation violation does appear to be his greatest potential legal challenge.
Its really hard to see how Mr. Barry can be in serious legal jeopardy on the merits of this stalking incident alone, absent some other piece of evidence that has yet to surface.
But he could land in jail if he is found to have violated his probation. Barry's arrest is technically a violation of his probation. But sources told the Washington Post this morning that prosecutors and judges generally look at the facts of the case before deciding how to proceed.
Mr. Barry's attorney said this morning he doubts a judge will find his client in violation based on the facts so far in the alleged stalking incident.
Takoma Park, D.C.: This is so Barry. He's a drama king who surrounds himself with drama queens. It sounds as if he and the woman he allegedly stalked deserve each other.
My question: your article indicates that the woman in question says she never told the Park Police she was being stalked, but rather Barry was stopped for a traffic violation. At the very least, this would seem to indicate that she does not want to press charges. Shouldn't that be the end of it?
washingtonpost.com: Barry Attorney Adds New Version of Events in Stalking Case (Post, July 6)
Tim Craig: It remains very murky what the alleged victim wants.
I just updated the story for the website based on an interview I had with her a few hours ago. She said she never wanted Barry arrested, but now that he has been, she plans to cooperate with prosecutors. She said she is gathering "evidence" such as emails to hand over to authorities.
But her previously statements about not wanting him charged, will undoubtedly surface in a trial if formal charges are brought. Barry's attorneys are salivating over the possibility of getting to cross-exam her on the stand - which is one reason they feel pretty confident prosecutors will drop the charge.
Ward 8 Resident: It is common knowledge in Ward 8 that Barry is not available. There is already a general belief that he does not really live in Ward 8 anymore. His home on Orange Street remains vacant most of the time. He not spent his nights there in a very long time. Who's responsibility is it to ensure that he is maintaining his residency requirements?
Tim Craig: I will have to look into whether there is any City or Council agency/authority responsible for keeping tabs on whether Ward council members actually continue to live in the Ward. But Nikita Stewart is telling me that the Board of Elections is responsible. If someone filed a complaint, they should/could investigate
But council members serve 4-year terms. Barry is up for reelection in 2012. If he runs again, Ward 8 residents will ultimately have a say in whether he still resides in the District.
Chantilly, Va.: One of Marion Barry's quotes still makes me grin: "Jesse [Jackson] don't want to run nothing but his mouth."
Tim Craig: Thanks. I will share your comment with others without comment.
Port Ewen, N.Y.: Tucker Carlson just used Barry's behavior as further proof that D.C. is not ready for representation. Is this type of behavior by a politician any more prevalent in D.C. than in any other part of the country? Wouldn't one be able to argue that real representation would force voters to take their politicians more seriously?
washingtonpost.com: Balance of Power Discussion With Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox (washingtonpost.com, July 6)
Nikita Stewart: I haven't seen Carlson's comments, but DC Vote advocates do not appreciate pundits, senators and representatives using such incidents to suggest that the District should not have a vote in Congress. Politicians around the country unfortunately get involved in similar situations, but their states still have representation.
Washington, D.C.: Barry's behavior follows all the classic earmarks of addiction. Why be surprised at the latest example of his behavior? We are the ones who need to get a life and stop following the current/latest drama of Marion Barry.
Tim Craig: There is no evidence that his recent arrest stems from his past encounters with illegal drugs.
However, you raise an interesting question about whether "Barry fatigue" has set in. Do District residents even pay attention anymore when his name surfaces in the news? But I can report the story about his arrest has been one of the top viewed stories on washingtonpost.com, suggesting the public is still following the drama that has surrounded his life.
River East: Has Barry talked about running for re-election in three years? I hope not and he decides to mentor young and upcoming community leaders.
Nikita Stewart: It's early so there's no talk about running or not running. Last year, younger candidates tried to give him a challenge, but the community got behind Barry once again. However, it looks like groups, such as the River East Emerging Leaders, are grooming future candidates.
Ward 8 Resident: If found guilty of the stalking charge would that automatically trigger his probation being voided and he spend some actual jail time? If he does spend jail time does that mean that he would have to give up his seat on the city council?
Tim Craig: I believe a judge would still have discretion on whether the charge violated his probation. If he was sentenced to jail, Barry would most likely have to resign his Council seat if he landed in jail.
Clarification: Isn't it the case that Councilman Barry is currently having his wages garnished to pay for his back D.C. taxes?
Tim Craig: The IRS has been taking $1,350 every two weeks from Barry's salary since late 2006. He owes the District an unspecified amount.
Alexandria, Va.: I'm not originally from the D.C. area, and so am amazed by Mr. Barry's ability to get re-elected. What rules does the D.C. Council have regarding the conduct of its members? And does the council have the ability to censure members?
This power (and threats of its use) has resulted in the removal and resignation of members of Congress. And just as in Congress, I can't imagine that members of the D.C. Council enjoy being associated with such as sordid person as Barry.
Tim Craig: For the most part, other Council members have been extremely reluctant to criticize Marion Barry.
They see it as an issue between him and his constituents in Ward 8. Why do they want to pick a fight with Barry supporters?
If voters in other Wards want to protest Mr. Barry's actions, they could contact their own council member to urge them to be more vocal in speaking up about Mr. Barry's legal issues.
Congress Heights,D.C.: I am a resident of Ward 8 and I along with my neighbors and fellow residents of Ward 8 are sick and tired of being embarrassed by Marion Barry. Not only does he NOT represent us adequately but these constant and seemingly never-ending brushes with the law beg us to ask when will be be found accountable? Whether by the D.C. government where he owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes, to the judge who seems to constantly give Barry passes for breaking the law or for the D.C. City Council who has remained mum on these issues all of these years. Has anyone even censured him officially?
I would love to see the WashPo or some other agency investigate this "paid consultant" who was doing double duty as Barry's girlfriend. It is no secret in Ward 8 that Marion Barry took his campaign contributions and played "fast and loose" with them. Consultants always looked suspiciously like family and friends -- most without jobs or any prior campaign experience. During the campaign it looked like Barry had a lot of supporters. He did -- a lot of PAID supporters ($50 a day plus snacks).
When is this going to end? We deserve much better in Ward 8!
Nikita Stewart: Other council members and candidates have hired their family and friends to help them on their campaigns. When I reported Barry's son on the campaign payroll, Barry told me that his son was working hard. I used to cover politics in New Jersey and lots of reporters often repeated a quote from a story about nepotism. A Newark council member said something like, "Why would you hire someone you didn't know?"
Alexandria, Va.: I heard earlier that the woman said she never filed a report of stalking. If that's true, how did the police even know to arrest Barry? Someone isn't being truthful and my bet is on the girlfriend.
Tim Craig: Park Police say the alleged victim flagged them down and said Barry was "bothering her."
She says Park Police pulled Barry over on their own after they observed him driving erratically in the park as he pursued her. She said they then found copies of emails in his car to suggest he was stalking her so they arrested him.
Barry appears to believe the police version of events, pinning the blame on the ex-girlfriend for his arrest. Barry's legal team has taken to calling the victim "unstable" and suggests she has emotional issues.
She has fired back by calling Barry a liar.
New York, N.Y.: "DC Vote advocates do not appreciate pundits, senators and representatives using such incidents to suggest that the District should not have a vote in Congress."
Then perhaps those advocates should do something to curb the phenomenon besides useless resentment -- namely by convincing the electorate that Barry only hurts their cause. After all, those pundits have nothing to lose by levying criticism of Barry -- they're only doing their job. He is an embarrassment and a mess, and as long as he keeps getting re-elected, people will smile, shake their heads and say "this is why D.C. shouldn't have representation." That's just common sense.
Nikita Stewart: Everyone has the right to an opinion.
River East is sick of Marion Barry: Last election season River East got behind a new, qualified (involved in many Ward 8 groups), educated (law degree) and LAW ABIDING candidate, Charles Wilson. Ward 8 residents for a change came out to support him. Unfortunately you need to have DEEP pockets in order to launch an adequate campaign against the Barry machine and to be honest Marion Barry keeps his base (even those who know he is no good and past his prime) exactly where he wants them -- broke, desperate and absolutely terrified of change. That is Barry's base and that is why he does not want progress and new residents to come into the Ward. 100 percent of the new residents that come into Ward 8 are not voting for Marion Barry. These new residents are educated, financial stable and politically savvy. We are sick of his foolishness and antics and would like to see him go -- quickly!
Tim Craig: My hunch is you will have another opportunity to support Charles Wilson in 2012...Marion Barry will be at least 75 in 2012. Will he seek reelection?
To: Alexandria, Va,, from Ward 8 Resident: During Barry's last brush with the law a large group of residents did contact other members of the City Council and asked them to at least censure Mr. Barry if not outright call for him to resign.
Their response? In a nutshell they said that Barry can't be recalled within 365 days of his appointment and that all comments should be referred to his officer. Translation: Don't bother us.
My guess is that the other councilmembers don't get involved because they are SCARED of Barry and what they believe is this great support in the black community for him. That couldn't be any further from the truth. If you asked everyone secretly what their thoughts are of Barry they would be happy to see him go. If you prevented Barry from rewarding loyalty (i.e., votes and PR stunts) with CASH (his favorite motivator during the last election) there would be little resistance. Ward 8 would rally behind a new capable candidate.
Nikita Stewart: I'm going to take cash to mean payment to campaign workers. As far as the council members' reaction, please look at my colleague's earlier post.
State College, Pa.: What time was Barry arrested? Is he still a night owl?
Nikita Stewart: 8:45 p.m.
Tim Craig: That's all the time we have today. Sorry for the questions we did not get to. But feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can reach Nikita at email@example.com
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