Undercover videotape of Marion Barry & Rasheeda Moore; click on the photo above for a larger view.


Go to Destination: Scandal!

Barry Arrested on Cocaine Charges in Undercover FBI, Police Operation

Sources Say Mayor Used Crack in Downtown D.C. Hotel Room

By Sharon LaFraniere
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Jan. 19, 1990; Page A01

D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine last night at the downtown Vista International Hotel after a fast-moving undercover investigation by the FBI and D.C. police that began several weeks ago, according to law enforcement officials and sources familiar with the arrest.

Sources said that the mayor, who was arrested shortly after 8 p.m., smoked crack cocaine in the hotel room. The sources said the mayor was with a longtime female friend of the mayor who agreed to work with federal authorities.

The woman, who came to the District recently from California, did not smoke cocaine or engage in sexual activity with mayor before his arrest, the sources said. The encounter took place over about an hour and was video and audio-taped, sources said.

After his arrest, Barry was taken to FBI headquarters and later released on his own recognizance by a magistrate.

At 12:40 a.m., Barry and Herbert O. Reid Sr., D.C. corporation counsel, arrived at Barry's home in the Hillcrest section of Southeast Washington in a blue Chevrolet van. They refused to answer questions from a crowd of reporters and went in the back door of the house.

After the red-eyed Barry emerged from the van, he was guided into his house by three FBI agents. A member of the mayor's security detail led the way, carrying a shotgun.

Early this morning, Barry's house was flooded with bright lights from television cameras as more than a dozen reporters and curious observers surrounded the house. About 1:15 a.m., two women came out of the back of the house with Barry's son, Christopher, and drove away.

City officials and friends of Barry, dressed casually and looking obviously surprised by the arrest, filed into the mayor's command center at the Reeves Municipal Center throughout the night as the city's top officials were put on alert. The atmosphere at the Reeves Center became more tense as details of Barry's arrest became known.

As officials and friends of the mayor arrived, they were rushed upstairs in a locked elevator by security guards who ordered reporters and other observers to stay behind.

Police Chief Isaac Fulwood, wearing a T-shirt, windbreaker and casual trousers, arrived about 10:50 p.m. and met with administrators on the eighth floor. He returned to the lobby after half an hour. Asked what he knew of the mayor's arrest, he said, "When I figure it out, I'll tell you."

R. Kenneth Mundy, the mayor's attorney, arrived about 11:35 p.m. wearing a sweat suit and hurried upstairs. Sources at the center said Mundy went upstairs to meet with Joseph Yeldell, director of the emergency preparedness office; Maudine R. Cooper, Barry's chief of staff, and City Administrator Carol B. Thompson.

Sources said Barry called Mundy and Reid from the FBI building. Reid arrived at the FBI building shortly after 10 p.m.

The mayor's wife, Effi, had told friends last night that she would not be going to FBI's headquarters to see her husband and that she would keep her son home from school today.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens said the mayor will be arraigned in U.S. District Court at noon today.

In a statement released last night, Stephens and Thomas E. DuHadway, who heads the Washington field office, said, "tonight's undercover operation was part of an ongoing public corruption probe under the supervision of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia."

The statement said Barry was arrested on "narcotics charges" but gave no details.

Barry, who has steadfastly denied using drugs since allegations first surfaced against him in 1981, was expected to announce his campaign for a fourth term on Sunday.

As news of his arrest spread, stunned city officals and friends filed into the mayor's command center at the Reeves Muncipal Center to discuss the mayor's situation and how to continue operating the government.

Barry's arrest drew expressions of shock and disappointment from his allies and political opponents, and touched off a furious round of speculation about the future of local politics in Washington.

A number of observers said the mayor's arrest could set in motion Jesse L. Jackson's eventual entrance in the race for mayor, while others speculated that for now, at least, the civil rights leader will make no sudden moves towards becoming a candidate.

The undercover operation began several weeks ago, just as a year-long grand jury investigation into allegations that the mayor used crack cocaine with Charles Lewis, a former D.C. employee and convicted cocaine dealer, appeared to be drawing to a close. Prosecutors have been considering whether to seek an indictment against the mayor on charges of perjury, conspiracy or possession of cocaine in connection with the Lewis inquiry, sources said.

Sources said that the federal authorities will continue to pursue a possible case against Barry out of the Lewis probe. "There's two cases now," one source said.

One source described the undercover operation as "quick" and said both the FBI and the internal affairs unit of the D.C. police department participated.

Last night, police had sealed off a seventh-floor corridor in the hotel. Hotel officials had no comment.

One source said that the room in which the mayor was arrested had not been reserved in his name.

Federal officials began their latest investigation into possible cocaine use by the mayor in December 1988, after Barry was discovered in Lewis's room at another downtown hotel, the Ramada Inn. At the time, police were investigating allegations that Lewis offered cocaine to a hotel maid. The detectives aborted their inquiry after learning that Barry was in Lewis's room.

Lewis pleaded guilty in November to two cocaine-related conspiracy charges and is scheduled to be sentenced today.

News of the arrest threw the District government into turmoil and raised questions about the mayor's ability to continue to administer the city. By law, the mayor can keep his office even though he has been arrested, according to Gregory E. Mize, general counsel to the D.C. Council.

"The mayor is entitled to his office because he's been elected to it," Mize said. "At bottom, the people have elected him mayor and it will be up to the people to decide whether to keep him."

"The District Charter does not spell out every step in cookbook fashion in a situation like this," Mize said. "This is not something you think is going to happen. The U.S. Constitution doesn't spell out what happens if the president is arrested."

If the mayor were convicted and incarcerated, he probably would not still qualify as a voter and therefore could lose his office, Mize said.

There is no provision in the District Charter for the mayor to give up his office for an interim. He can yield some of his powers to Thompson, but not all powers. For example, he cannot delegate his power to sign or veto legislation or to contract with the federal government.

"The city administrator is the appointee of the mayor to be the point person for managing the everyday affairs, but is not designed to be a replacement for the mayor," Mize said.

The charter allows for voters to recall the mayor. The procedure begins with gathering of signatures on petitions, followed by a referendum.

Lewis was indicted last spring on cocaine-related charges in the District and then, after another FBI undercover operation, in the Virgin Islands. In August, he agreed to cooperate with investigators and alleged that he used crack cocaine with Barry at the Ramada Inn and during several trips the mayor took to the Virgin Islands over the last three years.

Barry associates said last night they were speechless about the mayor's arrest. "I'm too stunned to talk right now," said Jackson. Jeffrey N. Cohen, Barry's longtime friend and campaign fund-raiser, said, "You've got to be kidding."

Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) said, "It's just sort of shattering. I'm just devastated."

Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), who is going to challenge Barry in the Democratic primary this September, said the arrest will produce "a dramatic change in the political landscape."

Barry's arrest comes at a time when the mayor has seemed increasingly confident about his political future and aggressive on the issue of the city's drug war. After a feisty news conference Wednesday, Barry spent part of yesterday at a memorial service for a McKinley High School student shot last weekend.

The long run of events linking Barry with drugs began in December 1981 -- but was not made public until March 1983 -- when Barry attended a party at a 14th Street nightclub.

© The Washington Post Co.

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