There weren't many at the sentencing of Marion Barry who wanted much to be there.

Certainly not the defendant, expressing his direst contrition, nor his weary-looking counsel, R. Kenneth Mundy, making feint after feint at U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to shave a point here, a point there, from the tally of sentencing criteria in order to keep his client out of prison. Not "the government," in the persons of prosecutors Richard Roberts and Judith Retchin, considered losers in this case that produced only a single misdemeanor guilty verdict. Not the news media outside, who during the trial had basked in the sun on lawn chairs in front of the courthouse and who now cooled their heels at one of their last stakeouts.

Those who had any choice in the matter voted with their feet, or didn't; the second shoe to drop in the resolution of this sordid case would likely make a less memorable thud than the first. The summer's celebrity onlookers had other ambulances to chase. The heavy-breathing throng of would-be courtroom spectators had been replaced inside the velvet rope along the U.S. Court House corridor by a meek queue of the still curious. Virtually everyone who lined up in the morning got a seat. Outside it was a cool and sunny day.

Waiting for Judge Jackson to enter his courtroom, Barry stood alone at one end of the defense table while his lawyers conferred at the other end. The mayor, in midnight blue, had nothing to do with his hands. Touching the table, he gazed out over the gallery, neither defiant nor bowed, as though he could see but not be seen. In a pang of respect for his humiliation, the spectators hushed until he turned away again. He sat down alone.

But for his moment at the lectern to beg for Judge Jackson's lenience -- "I have knots in my stomach" was the first thing he told the judge -- Barry remained still in his chair throughout the proceedings. When they were done, and the sentence and fine pronounced, he went through a door with his lawyers and wasn't seen again.

Outside the courthouse, at every door cameras were poised for the ritual stand-ups by the courtroom players. At the main entrance, some 150 newsies paced and stomped and uncramped their knees as the morning yawned on. Testing the light, one cameraman stood at the microphones and held up a newspaper photograph of Mayor Barry upon which he had drawn dark prison bars. His colleagues cackled without much mirth.

Behind the news wall stood five or six mounted motorcycle police in their helmets and jodhpurs, the odd knot of uncertain tourists, a guy in Nikes and a Marlboro Racing Team cap taking his Dr. Pepper break, a bearded professor doing one more expert shtick into a microphone, a mournful, wailing fellow holding a makeshift cross and Bible, Judge Jackson's clerks shooting the breeze with the judge's daughter. Faces were pressed here and there against the courthouse windows above, looking down on the scene once more.

Jay Stephens, the U.S. attorney, soon revived the flagging stakeout by appearing at the microphones, but he had barely gotten out a few words -- the gist of which were that he would have no comment at this time -- when a group of women in overcoats began chanting behind him, drowning him out with the strains of "We Shall Overcome."

These were Barry supporters. "Friends of Marion's, residents of D.C. who love the mayor," was all the identification one of them gave. They were here to declare their unswerving loyalty, at least through Election Day. "We will deliver the mayor November 6. Praise the Lord," one of them kept repeating, to everyone in particular.

Back in August, when the lone guilty verdict had come down, they'd been cheering "Four more years! Four more years!" as horns blared jubilation from the street. Then they had been in the many dozens. Yesterday they may have been 10.

"It's been racism ever since day one," said the Barry cohort's leader as Stephens cruised away from the din with his retinue. "{Jackson's} a racist judge. He hates blacks, that's the bottom line," said her companion, who had a pocketful of green and white Barry for City Council stickers.

At last Mundy appeared, declaring himself and his absent client "disappointed" at the sentence and determined to appeal it. "The final chapter hasn't been written," he said. Asked if he would describe Barry's reaction to the six-month jail term and $5,000 fine, Mundy said, "No, those are private feelings."

Eventually, when the questions began to get repetitive or desperate, he went back inside the courthouse. As the prospect of Barry's own exit faded -- he left eventually through another door, without pause or comment -- the media stakeout began to fray at the edges.

The tourists drifted away. The TV trucks were loaded up. The Barry cluster was still hanging around, and at one point the leader turned away from the huddle and cried, for general consumption, "He's a Mississippi chicken-eatin' boy who came up and built this city." A Domino's delivery man arrived with a hot pizza pie bound for justice. A car drew up and a well-dressed couple emerged, striding arm in arm toward the courthouse and their date with matrimony.