At 5:30 p.m., the lawyers who duel in the courtroom at D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's trial are done for the day. But the lawyers outside the federal courthouse are just getting started.
Defense lawyer Abbe D. Lowell is running a comb through his hair, and lawyer Greta Van Susteren is pulling on a navy blue suit jacket over her jeans. Georgetown law professor Paul F. Rothstein is standing by, ready to step in front of a TV camera at a moment's notice.
The scene is repeated around town as the night wears on, for lawyers and law professors are in big demand by the media to dissect and analyze the riveting drug and perjury trial.
Those who are aren't doing their commenting for the media are doing it all the same -- over coffee or cocktails, in faculty lounges or at the judge's lunch table in D.C. Superior Court -- wherever and whenever lawyers meet.
"It's the greatest summertime diversion since the Watergate hearings of 1973," said D.C. lawyer Robert DeBerardinis Jr. "It's the World Series and the All Star game. If you are a trial lawyer . . . you'd just love to be in that courtroom."
At DeBerardinis's small firm, the talk is mostly of the Monday-morning quarterback variety: Who's up and who's down; hey, how about that last ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.
"A lot of his rulings have raised the eyebrows of a lot of defense attorneys," DeBerardinis said, citing the presiding judge's decision to allow testimony by a witness that Barry had forced her to have sex with him and to admit into evidence videotapes of news broadcasts in which Barry denied using drugs.
Now DeBerardinis and his partners are into the prediction stage, with a small pool going on the trial's outcome.
It doesn't matter much whether the law firm is small or large. It's pretty much the same story at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, the 100-plus lawyer branch of a giant New York firm. "I can't walk down the hall or into the library without someone asking about the case," said Rick Seaman, a member of the firm who has become a daily fixture on radio station WTOP-AM (1500), commenting on the trial.
The case may even turn up this year in a criminal law classroom at George Washington University.
Law professor Mary Cheh said she plans to draw from issues raised at the trial, particularly entrapment. Although Cheh believes that the Vista sting operation -- in which Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore lured Barry to the hotel -- is not entrapment in the legal sense, she said it raises deep philosophical questions.
"It makes you uncomfortable with the law's conclusion, and when students are uncomfortable with the rule of law, it makes them think hard," Cheh said. "We can state what the law is, but this makes students say, 'Gee, should that be the rule? Has the government overreached in some sense?' "
It is not uncommon for professors to draw on high-profile trials, but this one raises so many juicy issues, Cheh said, that professors "will have quite a little encyclopedia" to call on for a course.
Former Justice Department prosecutor Reid Weingarten believes it is the human side, not the law, that has drawn lawyers to this trial. "There's a dearth of legal issues," said Weingarten, particularly compared with the recent Iran-contra trials, such as Oliver North's.
"It's more gossip than it is law when lawyers meet," Van Susteren said. "You rarely hear lawyers talk about the law, except when they're talking to reporters.
"And lawyers are such an arrogant bunch, they talk about the mistakes other lawyers make . . . . What most won't admit is that trying a case is like walking through a minefield. You never know when you're going to step on the big one . . . . "
In town or out-of-town, the Barry trial remains the topic.
On June 28, four D.C. lawyers vacationing in Dewey Beach, Del., learned that the Vista videotape was being shown in court. They headed for a local watering hole and liberally tipped the bartender to turn on CNN, not the standard television fare in a beachfront bar. "We spent the rest of the afternoon watching," said lawyer Stephen Easley, "and arguing over how good or bad the tape was for the prosecution and the defense."
Some lawyers have gone further than mere talk. Personal injury lawyer Jack H. Olender sent a letter by messenger to U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens on Tuesday, calling on him to stop the trial and plea bargain with the mayor.
"It is not too late . . . " Olender wrote in his two-page letter. He argued that continuing the trial would cause "irreparable harm" to the city's race relations and its image. As of yesterday, Olender said, he had received no reply.
George Washington University law professor John F. Banzhaf III has bombarded the media with his thoughts on the trial, running one of the busiest fax machines in town. Some professors, he said, try to get their ideas and influence across through "learned, lengthy law review articles and scholarly conferences." Banzhaf prefers the media. "Anybody . . . would be lying to say they have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a TV studio," he said.
American University has sent out news releases offering its experts for interviews on the Barry trial. It serves two purposes, said the university's Anita F. Gottlieb: enhancing the school's image and helping the public understand important issues.
And there certainly has been no lack of takers. The media has been rapacious in its needs.
On top of regular newscasts and the weekend analysis shows, WJLA-TV (Channel 7) has run a special show every night since the trial began. It has devoured legal talent. Producer Linda Ringe said the lawyers-cum-commentators have been, on the whole, "excellent, and there have been no embarrassments."
But the lawyers turned TV stars better be ready for the critics, the harshest of whom are their legal peers.
It's "inappropriate" for lawyers to comment on the performance of their colleagues while the trial is in progress, said one defense lawyer. Most of the law professor-commentators, said one former criminal prosecutor, "have never tried a case in their life. They're always oh so theoretical, and oh so wrong."
But the lawyers who have taken to the airwaves have a different view.
"Anyone who says it's inappropriate must not be watching," said Lowell, adding that he and others are explaining issues and the sometimes mysterious workings of the criminal justice system.
There are other arguments they could throw at their critics.
"It's fun," Van Susteren said. "And it's good for business."
Following are the 14 charges against D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and a summary of the evidence offered so far on each. The government finished its case last week. The defense has said it expects to call 10 to 15 witnesses and is likely to finish its case this week.
Conspiracy to possess cocaine, fall 1984 to Jan. 18, 1990.
Because every alleged act of possession is part of the conspiracy case, most of the prosecution's evidence on counts 2 to 14 is relevant. Additional evidence: logs of telephone calls Barry received from alleged co-conspirators and testimony by Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore about "more than 100" episodes of drug use for which Barry has not been separately charged.
Last week, D.C. police Sgt. James Pawlik testified that between June 1986 and January 1990 Barry made more than 2,000 calls from his car phones to 10 of the alleged co-conspirators. About half of those calls went to three people: Theresa Southerland, Bettye L. Smith and Moore.
Possession of cocaine, November 1987.
Georgetown restaurateur Hassan H. Mohammadi testified that, at Barry's request, he delivered cocaine to the mayor at Barry's office in the District Building just before Barry left for the Bahamas. He also testified that he met Barry in Nassau and shared cocaine with him there. Another witness, Theresa Southerland, testified that she, too, used cocaine with Barry on the trip.
Possession of crack cocaine, Sept. 7, 1988.
Lydia Reid Pearson testified that she sold three $30 bags of crack to Barry at the Frank D. Reeves Center on Sept. 7, 1988, the date written on a job application she said she gave to Barry the same day.
Possesssion of crack cocaine, Dec. 16, 1988.
Charles Lewis testified that Barry arrived for a visit at a downtown Ramada Inn carrying a matchbox full of crack. Lewis said they smoked it.
Barry's defense sought to discredit Lewis -- on this and the following counts -- by eliciting inconsistencies on details and emphasizing that he testified against Barry in the hopes of a more lenient sentence for his own drug convictions.
Possession of crack cocaine, Dec. 17, 1988.
Lewis testified that Barry again brought crack to the Ramada, this time in the cuff of a trouser leg. The two of them, Lewis said, improvised a crack pipe from a sherbet glass and aluminum foil.
Possession of crack cocaine, Dec. 19, 1988.
Lewis testified that Barry sent $100 to the Ramada so that Lewis could buy a "working fifty," a wholesale quantity of crack. Lewis, who could not find a working fifty, said he bought two $20 packets of crack and invited James McWilliams to meet Barry in the hotel room.
He said the three men watched a Monday night football game, with Barry joining Lewis in the bathroom periodically to smoke crack. McWilliams testified that he did not see Barry smoke crack but saw him with smoking paraphernalia in the bathroom and smelled the smoke.
Barry's defense sought to discredit McWilliams by pointing out that he had struck a deal with prosecutors.
Possession of crack cocaine, Dec. 22, 1988.
Lewis testified that he offered crack cocaine to a Ramada maid, who declined and told her supervisors, who in turn summoned the police to investigate. Undercover officers were about to approach Lewis when the hotel manager discovered that Barry was in the room and asked the officers to leave, a hotel executive testifed.
Lewis testified that Barry brought a crack pipe in an overnight bag and that the two men smoked crack with it.
This charge centers on Barry's denial, in January 1989 grand jury testimony, that he knew anything about Lewis's involvement with drugs. The evidence includes Barry's tape-recorded testimony, contradicted by the testimony of Lewis and McWilliams in counts 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Four Virgin Islands women gave direct or circumstantial evidence in support of Lewis's testimony that Barry observed or participated in Lewis's drug use in the Virgin Islands.
During cross-examination, Barry's defense called attention to inconsistencies in the witnesses' accounts.
For the defense, Barry security guards James L. Stays and Ulysses Walltower and former security force member Warren C. Goodwine testified last week that they saw no evidence of drug use by Barry or Lewis on the March 1988 trip to the Virgin Islands during which, Lewis testified, he and Barry used cocaine.
This charge centers on Barry's denial in grand jury testimony that he ever gave Lewis any drugs. The evidence is Barry's tape-recorded testimony, contradicted by the testimony of Lewis and McWilliams in counts 4, 5, 6 and 7.
This charge centers on Barry's denial in grand jury testimony that he ever received any drugs from Lewis at the Ramada. The evidence is Barry's tape-recorded testimony, contradicted by the testimony of Lewis and McWilliams in counts 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Possession of cocaine, Aug. 26, 1989.
Darrell Sabbs testified that he used cocaine with Barry on this date while he was a guest at a downtown hotel. Under cross-examination, Sabbs conceded he has a poor memory for dates. Prosecutors introduced Sabbs's hotel bill, which showed a call to Barry on Aug. 26.
Possession of cocaine between Nov. 7 and Nov. 10, 1989.
Barry associate Doris Crenshaw testified that she used cocaine with Barry at her room in the Mayflower Hotel during a trip she made to Washington in the fall of 1989. Prosecutors introduced a hotel bill from her stay showing a call to the mayor that corroborated her testimony. Crenshaw also testified she smoked crack with Barry on the night of the Ramada Inn episode, Dec. 22, 1988, at another downtown hotel.
Possession of cocaine between Jan. 1 and Jan. 18, 1989.
After being arrested at a hospital in Tennessee by U.S. marshals and flown to Washington, Barry friend Bettye L. Smith testified that she provided cocaine to Barry between 1983 and early 1990. Many times, she said, she also used the drug with him. She testified that, in particular, she provided cocaine to the mayor between Christmas 1989 and the middle of January.
Possession of crack cocaine, Jan. 18, 1990.
The FBI's Vista Hotel videotape, which shows Barry taking two long drags from a crack pipe, is the prosecution's centerpiece on this count. This is the only count for which prosecutors offered physical evidence of drug possession: two crack pipes and a leftover rock of crack. Moore, who appears with Barry on the tape, faced lengthy cross-examination by defense lawyer R. Kenneth Mundy, who is trying to show that Barry was entrapped by Moore. Mundy also pointed to deals Moore struck with the government and the money she has received while in the federal witness protection program. -Compiled by Barton Gellman and Michael York