Mary Treadwell's career in Washington has spanned nearly 20 years and two professions, evolving from an intense political activism into an aggressive role in the business world that subsided, at least temporarily, in the face of the allegations of fraud and conspiracy that brought her to trial.

In the 1960s and into the 1970s, Treadwell was one of the most forceful voices for the city's downtrodden, an outspoken militant who helped found Youth Pride Inc., the city's best-known minority job training program. One of the cofounders was Marion Barry, who later became the second of Treadwell's three husbands and is now the city's mayor.

Even now, Treadwell testified, she has "a lot of feeling of motherhood for the dudes at Pride."

As the Pride programs flourished, Treadwell, with the help of others, ventured into other businesses, forming corporations with the goal of fostering minority entrepreneurship. In the process, Treadwell moved solidly into the city's black middle class, driving a Jaguar, living at the Watergate apartments and vacationing in Vermont and Jamaica.

One of the Youth Pride spinoffs was P.I. Properties Inc., a company established to own and manage real estate. One of the firm's purchases, in 1975, was the Clifton Terrace apartment complex, a 285-unit project in Northwest Washington.

But almost from the start, the Clifton Terrace venture was mired in financial and management problems.

A feisty, self-assured woman often given to salty language, Treadwell, now 42, has adopted a low profile since 1979 when federal investigators started probing allegations that P.I. Properties engaged in criminal conduct while it owned Clifton Terrace.

She has steadfastly denied wrongdoing and she answered the prosecutors caustic questions with barbed remarks.

She rarely made any concessions and said that if she could, she would again buy Clifton Terrace.