Attorney General Janet Reno said yesterday the Justice Department will review former D.C. mayor Marion Barry's request for an investigation into the FBI's aborted plans to run a sting operation against him last year.
Reno said she had received a letter from Barry's attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., complaining about the FBI's tactics and urging a probe.
"We are reviewing it now to determine how we should respond," she told reporters during her weekly briefing at the Justice Department. Reno said she had not yet been advised about the facts of the case but will be involved in deciding how to answer Barry's request. She set no time frame.
The FBI recruited D.C. police lieutenant Yong H. Ahn and Ahn's wife, Azita, to participate in an investigation of Barry after Yong Ahn was arrested last year on corruption charges. According to recently unsealed court documents, the FBI wanted Azita Ahn to videotape an attempt to pay Barry $5,000 in return for a job with the D.C. government. A journal kept by Yong Ahn quoted agents as saying their supervisors were pushing the plan.
Ahn, who agreed to cooperate with the FBI after pleading guilty to taking money from the operators of illegal massage parlors, wore a recording device during meetings with a man who was to act as the go-between in the job-for-cash plan. According to his journal, Ahn also did undercover work for the FBI in attempts to uncover other allegedly corrupt D.C. officials. But his journal portrays the FBI agents as focused most heavily upon Barry.
Federal prosecutors said they did not authorize the sting, and it never was carried out. Barry, who never was charged, contended that the effort showed the FBI unfairly targeted him after he returned to the mayor's office following his 1990 conviction on a misdemeanor drug charge. Barry and his attorney said the FBI had no basis to believe Barry was selling jobs.
Cooke, Barry's longtime legal adviser and a former D.C. corporation counsel, said FBI supervisors should have questioned the plan from the start because the D.C. financial control board had authority over most city agencies. "The mayor didn't have any jobs to sell," Cooke said.
He said he and Barry were eagerly awaiting Reno's response. "From there we'll figure out what's next," Cooke said.