Azita Ahn, the police officer's wife enlisted last year to take part in a planned sting against then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, said she "didn't want to cooperate" and reluctantly took part because of pressure from the FBI.
Ahn said she agreed to aid investigators last year to help her husband, then-D.C. police Lt. Yong H. Ahn, who had just been arrested on charges he took $8,000 in bribes from the operators of illegal massage parlors. She said FBI agents, not her husband, came up with the idea to target Barry.
"When they got my husband, they asked him to cooperate to get Mr. Barry," she said in an interview this week. "I want Mr. Barry and his supporters to know I didn't want to cooperate. They made me because they promised me my husband would not go to jail. I would do anything for my husband not to go to jail. He was a police officer. Going to jail was a very dangerous situation."
Azita Ahn's remarks provide yet another dimension to a case that has generated much criticism and finger-pointing. Although the sting operation was not carried out, Barry has said it demonstrated that federal authorities were overzealous in investigating him.
Details emerged last week when court papers and transcripts were unsealed in Yong Ahn's case. U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan agreed to make the materials public after he sentenced Ahn to a four-month term for accepting illegal gratuities.
Soon after Yong Ahn's arrest in February 1998, he agreed to plead guilty and aid investigators. In return, prosecutors said they would urge Hogan to consider a reduced prison term. According to the court papers, Ahn and his wife eventually agreed to assist in an investigation of Barry and other officials.
Azita Ahn said she and her husband met repeatedly with FBI agents and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert R. Chapman to prepare plans for a sting. She said the FBI outfitted her husband with a jacket from Bloomingdale's department store that was bulky enough to hide a recording device and that he wore the device in several meetings to lay the groundwork for the sting.
"My husband was just the bridge," she said of the sting plans, which called for her to meet with Barry privately during a party at an acquaintance's home in Northern Virginia and then seek a job for cash. Chapman and FBI agents helped her prepare a phony resume to show Barry. "They told me what to say and do," she said.
Ahn said she was to secretly videotape the transaction, in which she would give Barry an envelope with $5,000 up front for a job that paid up to $80,000 a year. She said Barry was supposed to be led to believe he would get $5,000 more once she was on the D.C. payroll.
The operation was set for April 1998, she said, but collapsed after news reports of her husband's arrest. U.S. Attorney Wilma A. Lewis has said the sting would not have happened even if Ahn's arrest had remained secret, saying she never authorized the operation. Other law enforcement sources said prosecutors believed that the FBI didn't have enough evidence to act against Barry and didn't want to pursue a case that didn't seem airtight.
Barry and his associates were the target of numerous FBI investigations during his four terms as mayor, but only one case ended in his conviction. He was convicted of misdemeanor drug possession after a January 1990 videotaped sting operation at the Vista Hotel. Barry said he never would have traded money for jobs or government services, and he wants the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the aborted sting.
The lead FBI agent on the Ahn case, William H. Spivey Jr., later was placed on administrative leave amid allegations of improper behavior in another police corruption case. Spivey has denied any wrongdoing.
Yong Ahn is attempting to withdraw his guilty plea in the gratuities case. Among other things, he contends that he might have avoided prison altogether had the Barry investigation run its course. Hogan has permitted Ahn to remain free pending appeal. The Ahns, meanwhile, have at least one memento from their experience: He still has the Bloomingdale's jacket.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.