Two of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's longtime friends, both professing deep affection for the mayor, appeared as prosecution witnesses yesterday and testified that they used cocaine with Barry on numerous occasions during recent years.
The friends, Washington advertising executive A. Jeffrey Mitchell and former D.C. city employee Darrell Sabbs, testified with apparent reluctance and with a grant of immunity from prosecutors.
Each underwent a searching line of questioning from prosecutors, with many follow-up questions.
The two told of using cocaine with Barry in Washington, California, the Bahamas and on the Eastern Shore.
Mitchell provided some new details about Barry's hospitalization during a trip to the 1987 Super Bowl in California, saying he called an ambulance after Barry apparently used cocaine and then had trouble breathing.
At the same time, Mitchell disputed testimony given Wednesday by Washington lawyer Lloyd N. Moore Jr., who said Mitchell told him Barry collapsed after smoking "cocaine laced with something." Mitchell said that Moore, in his testimony, was speculating about the cause of Barry's sudden illness.
After court adjourned, Barry and his lead defense attorney, R. Kenneth Mundy, met with reporters. Asked whether he was shaken by the testimony of his close friends, Barry said he was not.
"I've learned in the last four weeks of the trial to adjust to all of this situation . . . . This testimony doesn't impact on me personally," Barry said.
Mundy told reporters that he is eager to begin presenting his side of the case. Prosecutors said they expect to finish their case by Tuesday. "The government is about to rest. The defense never rests," Mundy said. "We'll fight as long as the fight goes. I think we're possibly at the 10th round, 12th round. And we've been carrying the government for the first 10 rounds."
Meanwhile yesterday, prosecutor Judith E. Retchin asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson for a bench warrant for the arrest of Bettye Smith, a friend of Barry's who has been subpoenaed as a prosecution witness.
Jackson sealed the transcript of the bench conference at which he ruled on the motion for a warrant, but a source said that Jackson issued it. The judge delayed her arrest, however, until after her father undergoes scheduled cancer surgery on Monday, the source said.
Smith's lawyers have said that she has checked herself into a Chattanooga, Tenn., hospital complaining of stress. A source said she has stated she would not testify until after her father's surgery.
Retchin told the judge yesterday that the government is "doing some fine-tuning and taking out some things that may not be necessary" to complete its side of the case by Tuesday.
After defense lawyers cross-examine Sabbs today, prosecutors are expected to call at least two more witnesses to describe drug use by Barry: Smith and Montgomery, Ala., businesswoman Doris Crenshaw.
In addition, prosecutors have said they plan to call at least one FBI agent or D.C. police detective to present an analysis of various records, including logs of telephone calls to and from the mayor.
In his testimony, Mitchell said he used drugs with Barry, but he disputed parts of the testimony of three previous witnesses, who implicated Mitchell in drug use. Under cross-examination by Mundy, Mitchell said he had never used cocaine with FBI informant Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore, restaurateur Hassan H. Mohammadi or Barry girlfriend Theresa Southerland.
Both Moore and Southerland said they had used cocaine with Mitchell and Barry, while Mohammadi said Mitchell was present at his M Street NW restaurant, the Pardis Cafe, when Mohammadi and Barry talked about drugs.
In his opening statement at the start of the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Roberts told the jury that the government's case would be believable, in part, because some of the testimony would come from Barry's closest friends.
Both Mitchell and Sabbs appear to be in that category. Each used the word "love" in testimony to describe the closeness each man feels for the mayor.
Mitchell said he has "feelings for Mr. Barry very close to that of a brother . . . a very close friend."
"Can you be more specific about what you mean?" Retchin asked.
"I love Marion Barry just like he was in the womb," Mitchell said.
The prosecutors apparently elicited such testimony, and put the pair on as witnesses despite their apparent reluctance, because the government believes their testimony about the mayor's alleged drug use would be credible even to skeptical jurors who may not like the government's case.
Under questioning by Roberts, Sabbs ended his testimony for the government by describing how he arrived in Washington on Jan. 19 on a trip that had been planned to celebrate Barry's announcement that he would seek a fourth term as mayor. All that changed, Sabbs testified, on Jan. 18, when Barry was arrested at the Vista Hotel in an FBI sting.
After misspeaking and calling the undercover sting an "entrap-," Sabbs said he called Barry the day after the arrest.
"I told him that I was concerned about him, was thinking about him and that I loved him and that to take care of himself," Sabbs testified.
The prosecution took the unusual step of confronting Mitchell and Sabbs with their grand jury testimony at various points when they strayed from their previous statements to authorities.
Roberts asked Mitchell whether Barry had obtained drugs from Bettye Smith, and when Mitchell attempted to avoid answering, Roberts confronted Mitchell with his grand jury testimony, in which he said Smith had been Barry's provider.
According to a source, prosecutors would like to finish their parade of Barry friends with Smith, who has been perhaps the most reluctant of the government witnesses. In urging Jackson to issue a bench warrant yesterday, Retchin told the judge that Smith has been uncooperative from the start of the investigation, a source said.
Also, the source said, Retchin attempted to cast doubt on Smith's claims that she could not travel to Washington because of stress, saying Smith's own physician had said Smith's stress would be reduced when her testimony is completed.
Smith's lawyers persuaded Jackson not to order her arrest now because she is suffering from a heart ailment that could make her vulnerable to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure if she is forced to come to Washington before her father undergoes surgery, the source said.
Mitchell, who has known the mayor since 1967 when he joined Barry's Pride Inc. organization, testified that Barry introduced him to cocaine on a fishing trip off Tilghman Island on the Eastern Shore in 1985.
Mitchell said he went on the trip with Barry, Washington developer Jeffrey N. Cohen and David E. Rivers, who was then director of the D.C. Department of Human Services. Yesterday, Rivers was acquitted of bribery and conspiracy charges in what prosecutors called a scheme to manipulate the city's contracting process.
Mitchell testified that Barry came alone to Mitchell's room and asked if Mitchell wanted to "party," a term Mitchell took to mean drugs.
"I said, 'Sure,' " Mitchell said. "I did a couple of hits . . . . You know, we sniffed cocaine."
"Who put the cocaine to your nose?" Retchin asked.
"He did," Mitchell said.
There was no testimony that either Rivers or Cohen used drugs on the trip, and Cohen vigorously denied yesterday knowledge of drug use on the trip, or at any other time.
Prosecutors did not ask Mitchell about reports yesterday that he was the subject of an FBI investigation into whether he bribed Bahamian officials in 1987 to receive a contract to administer advertising at Nassau International Airport.
Retchin said during a bench conference, however, that Mitchell would testify, if asked, that the allegation is baseless.
Randy Daniels, a press spokesman for Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling, said yesterday that "the allegation is groundless and without foundation."
"The prime minister has nothing to do with the awarding of contracts at the airport," Daniels said. "He does not even know if he has met Mr. Mitchell. He certainly does not know him." A statement from the ministry added that Mitchell's firm, Bahamian Media Network, has fallen behind in payments to the ministry for exclusive use of airport advertising space and is in default on its contract.
Sabbs testified that he and Barry have been close friends since the early days of the mayor's administration, when Sabbs served on Barry's transition team.
Later, he testified, he was the director of the mayor's Youth Leadership Institute.
Sabbs said he first used cocaine with Barry at Mitchell's house, and he said it was probably during the summer of 1986. The second occasion, Sabbs testified, was at his birthday party at a Pennsylvania Avenue NW nightclub. Sabbs said he provided the cocaine, which he presented to Barry in aback room of the club.
Staff writers Elsa Walsh and Barton Gellman and researcher Matthew Lee contributed to this report.