In the end, they were chanting. "Barry! Barry! Barry!"
The crowd of supporters in front of the federal courthouse shouted as long and as loud as they could. Their verdict on Marion Barry was in -- loud and jubilant. "Four more years! Four more years!"
Over the din of horns honking and delighted shouts of victory, the mayor's trial finally came to an end.
In the span of two hours, the sidewalk in front of the courthouse was transformed from yet another stakeout with bored photographers to a frantic crush of cameras, reporters and supporters of the mayor.
At 5 p.m., it was clear that something big was coming.
Intense-looking people whispered urgently into walkie-talkies. Photographers began to seriously defend their tiny plots of sidewalk. Reporters arrived in droves and elbowed their way to the bank of the microphones in front.
After 10 weeks, there were rumors that something important was happening inside the courthouse. Word that the jury had come to at least a partial verdict hit at 5:45 p.m., when reporters for Channels 4, 5, 7 and 9 burst out the door, sprinted to the waiting camera crews staked out along the street and poured out the latest news.
"We don't know the details."
"Mundy looked loose."
"I thought the prosecutors looked a little tense."
Then, uncharacteristically sweaty and too rushed to do anything about it, they raced back in.
As the crowd began to form, tourists drifted over to see what was happening. "They are waiting for a criminal person or something like that?" asked one visitor from Egypt.
"We like crime," said another from Japan, snapping pictures furiously. "It looks exciting."
Exciting, unless you were one of the media panicked that they would miss the biggest story of the year. Word that Barry was arriving at the courthouse swept the plaza. Camera crews and tourists pressed forward to the police barricades to get a shot of him emerging from the car.
It was a false alarm. The mayor drove in through a different entrance.
Reporters kept racing in and out of the door with news. The crowd tensed. Guilty on Count 12. Not guilty on Count 3. The jury was still meeting. .
At 6:20, all hell broke loose. People shot out the door, some slipping on the stairs, racing to be the first with the news: Mistrial. Hung on 12 counts.
A scream went up behind the police barricades.
"Barry! Barry! We did it! Barry!"
"He's coming around! Christ, he's coming around!"
Instead of coming out the front door, Marion Barry left the courthouse from a side door and walked half a block to the front of the courthouse. As reporters scrambled to capture the first glimpse of him, the mayor slowly moved through a crush of cheering supporters to the bank of microphones, where he stood next to his attorney, Ken Mundy, to the roar of the crowd.
Barry smiled. He looked tired. Neither Barry nor Mundy had a statement.
Barry didn't need words. The cameras poised on his supporters told the story.
"Four more years! Four more years!"
Barry then moved inside, while Mundy was mobbed by well-wishers, reporters and camera crews as he tried to maneuver from the courthouse stairs to a waiting car. Mundy overshot the car as the crush intensified, then backtracked and was finally pushed through the open car door by two policemen.
"TV news! TV news!" cried out one giddy cameraman. "I love it! Better than sex!"
The cameras then turned back to the courthouse steps, where prosecutor Jay Stephens came out to make a statement. He was greeted with a loud chorus of boos, which continued throughout his comments to reporters.
"Let me shake his hand," crowed one Barry supporter, "and tell him what a good job he did for us."
As Stephens turned to go back into the courthouse over the jeers, the cameras left the patch of cement known as Barry Beach -- for what could be the last time.
Staff writer Ruben Castaneda contributed to this report.