An article yesterday incorrectly reported that U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova said his office received copies of documents purportedly written by Karen K. Johnson from WUSA-TV (Channel 9) on Thursday afternoon. DiGenova's statement did not identify the source of the documents. Station officials said WUSA did not provide the documents to the U.S. attorney's office. (Published 6/20/87)
Mayor Marion Barry, denying a television report of allegations that he had used cocaine and maintained a sexual relationship with convicted drug dealer Karen K. Johnson, accused federal law enforcement officials last night of planting news leaks in a campaign to "run me out of office."
A report broadcast last night by WUSA-TV (Channel 9) and attributed to an unnamed source said that Johnson had told prosecutors that she sold cocaine to the mayor on 20 to 30 occasions and used cocaine with him several times. The report also said Johnson acknowledged receiving payments to keep quiet about the drug dealings.
In addition, the report alleged that in Johnson's handwritten "secret papers" obtained by the station, she had written of a former sexual relationship with the mayor.
The mayor questioned the authenticity of the television report yesterday, and added, "I'm not sure where that information came from and . . . secondly, it is our view it was leaked from federal officials."
"I'm appalled and outraged," Barry said, charging that the leaks were "designed to break my spirit -- which will not be broken -- designed to stop the government from functioning smoothly . . . . This is an attempt to run me out of office."
U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova said last night that his office was not the source of information in the television report. He said the documents and a photograph depicted in the broadcast "were not, repeat not, seized by the FBI during the May 22, 1987, search of Karen Johnson's home."
DiGenova said the documents had not been in the possession of the federal authorities until the station provided copies just before the 6 p.m. broadcast.
"We, too, would be appalled and outraged to learn that a private citizen, witness or law enforcement officer had disclosed to the press information provided by any witness to law enforcement authorities," diGenova said.
Barry, in a news conference at the District Building following the report, denied buying drugs from Johnson and having an intimate relationship with her, and said there was "nothing new about what has been stated."
Reports of allegations that Barry had purchased cocaine from Johnson were widely published in 1984, but no charges were brought against him.
Last night's WUSA report is the latest arising out of the disclosure last month by diGenova of a wide-ranging probe of D.C. contracting and allegations of obstruction of justice in a 1984 grand jury investigation into possible drug use by Barry and others. Federal agents seized records and personal effects May 22 from a number of offices and private homes, including Johnson's Northwest row house.
It has been previously reported that Johnson is cooperating with authorities and has met at least four times with prosecutors to answer questions about alleged payments she received from D.C. businessman John Clyburn and possibly others. The payments were allegedly made in exchange for Johnson's refusal to testify before the grand jury in 1984.
Sources said yesterday that diGenova's office had agreed not to prosecute Johnson in return for her cooperation.
In the earlier investigation of possible drug use by D.C. officials, federal investigators secretly taped a conversation between Johnson and Franklin Law, a former boyfriend who was wearing a concealed microphone. Johnson allegedly told Law in the June 6, 1983, exchange that she sold cocaine to Barry 20 to 30 times between the fall of 1981 and late 1982.
When later appearing before the grand jury, she declined to answer any questions. Johnson was jailed for eight months on a contempt citation, and also served four months on a conviction for conspiracy to sell cocaine.
Federal prosecutors had hoped that Johnson's testimony in the drug probe would enable them to determine whether Barry committed perjury when he testified before the grand jury that he had not bought drugs from her. Investigators are now focusing on the question of whether the alleged payments were made on Barry's behalf.
G. Allen Dale, Johnson's attorney, said last night that he had "no reason to doubt" the authenticity of Johnson's secret papers. But, he added, he had not seen the documents and has "no independent reason to believe they are notes made by my client."
Johnson, interviewed at her home last night, said, "I have no knowledge of what the documents are. I can't comment . . . . I have no answer for your questions."
In addition to looking into allegations concerning Clyburn, investigators are probing whether D.C. businessman Roy Littlejohn and other contractors funneled payments to Johnson.
Thomas Dyson, Clyburn's attorney, said yesterday that "no hush money was paid by John Clyburn or anyone else to my knowledge."
Eugene Propper, Littlejohn's attorney, said his client "hasn't paid hush money to anybody. It is completely untrue . . . . This allegation is so outrageous I can't leave it unanswered."
The investigation of alleged payments to Johnson stemmed from wiretaps obtained in the 17-month undercover investigation of alleged contracting fraud.
Barry previously has denied any role in alleged payments to Johnson. No charges have been filed in the current investigation.
Barry accused federal officials yesterday of "character assassination" and suggested that news leaks could prejudice any future trials in the case. "Assuming there were some validity to anything and indictments were brought against anybody, it would be very difficult to even get a fair trial at this point," he said.
Barry again called for federal authorities to release photographs seized from Johnson's home, saying the group pictures of him with Johnson and others were routine public or political campaign photographs that could be shown "to one's mother or one's minister."
In response to a reporter's question, Barry declined to say that he would encourage Johnson to talk publicly about their former relationship, but repeated assertions that, "If she told the truth . . . I would be in very, very good shape."
FBI agents, in their search of Johnson's residence, seized financial records and at least one witness has testified before a grand jury about her finances. WUSA also reported last night that investigators are examining whether Johnson received any help in paying legal fees to John A. Shorter, her attorney in the previous drug probe.
Shorter is serving a sentence in a federal prison in Alabama on a tax evasion charge. He refused a request last week for an interview.Staff writers Victoria Churchville, Gwen Ifill, Marcia Slacum Greene and Nancy Lewis contributed to this report.