Marlene Kent Cooke watched in elegant silence yesterday as Juror 744 announced that the widow of longtime Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke was guilty of driving under the influence.
An uncommon drunken-driving trial, in which Cooke's high heels and strong perfume were invoked as evidence, ended with an uncommon request by the D.C. prosecutor that Cooke be jailed immediately.
"She has a history," said Assistant Corporation Counsel Anthony C. Gagliardi, asking that the stylish millionaire be held without bond until sentencing. "I believe that she's a danger to the community, and with her drinking and driving, she may go out and do it again."
The last thing Cooke would do is flee, responded defense attorney John Perazich. He pointed out that his client is fighting a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service attempt to deport her on the basis of a 1986 cocaine conspiracy conviction.
D.C. Superior Court Judge William H. Jackson denied the prosecution's request, leaving Cooke free until her sentencing Nov. 4, when she could receive as much as one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. It is her second drinking-and-driving conviction in six years.
Cooke declined to discuss the verdict, which ended a three-day trial. As she ascended a courthouse escalator, a man who had befriended her as she awaited the jury's verdict asked what had happened.
"Guil-ty," Cooke answered.
"I'm sorry," said American Diabetes Association executive Peter Knockstead, a robbery witness in a neighboring courtroom.
"It's okay. I am, too," Cooke said.
"Keep the faith!" Knockstead called.
"It will be fine," Cooke said pleasantly, over her shoulder.
The first clue that Cooke had been drinking was her perfume, said U.S. Park Police Officer Jeffrey Muller, who pulled her over Nov. 5 for driving without headlights. With the strong scent, he told the jury, "my suspicion was aroused."
Muller and two D.C. police officers said Cooke, who refused to take a Breathalyzer test, failed a sidewalk sobriety test. They said she could not walk heel to toe or balance on one leg. One officer said she "pretty much staggered."
Perazich countered that the night was cold, Cooke was shivering and her high heels made her stumble. Anders Ulle, who testified that he and Cooke will marry in July, told the jury that Cooke drank no more than one glass of wine during a late dinner at Sesto Senso.
To the jury, Perazich suggested that Cooke was arrested and prosecuted because of her notoriety. He asked whether it was an accident that a half-dozen police cars turned up for a "garden variety" case.
"Her lifestyle in this white-bread, button-down town we live in is not what's on trial," Perazich told the jury. "They brought her in here. This isn't her idea of a good time."
Robert Rigsby, interim corporation counsel, dismissed Cooke's mid-trial comment that the case was a "waste of money and time." He said, "This is serious business. We don't think one can put a monetary value on the potential loss of life."
The prosecution was not asserting that Cooke was "stone drunk," Gagliardi explained during closing arguments. The law describes as guilty a suspect who drinks enough alcohol "to appreciably disturb or interfere with her normal mental or physical faculties."
Gagliardi said the description fit Cooke. After seven hours of discussion in a windowless room, the jury agreed.
CAPTION: Marlene Kent Cooke, widow of Jack Kent Cooke, leaves court after being convicted.