The rank of D.C. police officer James L. Stays, a witness in the trial of Mayor Marion Barry, has been stated incorrectly in Post articles. Stays is a detective. (Published 7/21/90)
Attorneys for D.C. Mayor Marion Barry began presenting their case yesterday by calling the senior member of the mayor's police security detail to testify that he has never seen Barry use drugs, but prosecutors immediately tried to undercut the officer's testimony by suggesting that he had used cocaine himself.
The prosecutors' surprise move came in the government's cross-examination of D.C. police Sgt. James L. Stays, a 29-year veteran of the force who has been with Barry's security squad for 11 years.
It set off a midday scramble to find a court-appointed lawyer for Stays, as U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson recessed the trial and ordered both sides to research the question of whether Stays could be asked questions that might force him to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
By the end of the day, Stays, answering prosecutors' questions, denied that he used cocaine at a cookout in Prince George's County. He also denied that he had ever been with Barry at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel in Northwest Washington when cocaine was present.
Jackson said that prosecutors would be able to introduce evidence of Stays's alleged drug use after the defense rests, during the government's rebuttal.
Barry told reporters that the government's raising questions about Stays "has tainted his reputation . . . . They are backed up against the wall and using these Satanic, dirt-like tactics."
In another setback for the defense, early in the day Jackson denied a defense motion to dismiss four counts of the 14-count indictment: the conspiracy count and three drug possession counts. The judge said he agreed with the government's reading of case law that went against Barry attorney R. Kenneth Mundy's contention that two witnesses failed to adequately pinpoint dates for alleged drug offenses in the indictment.
The two defense witnesses after Stays also faced aggressive government cross-examination.
Defense witness Warren C. Goodwine, a D.C. police officer who once worked on the mayor's security detail, testified that he had never seen Barry use drugs. Under cross-examination, Goodwine said that he had only limited opportunities to observe the mayor, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard W. Roberts suggested that Goodwine had intentionally kept himself in the dark.
The other defense witness yesterday, Daryl Hardy, who is head of the mayor's summer youth employment program, was called to testify that he wasn't pressured to approve Project Me, the summer program in the mid-1980s organized by Barry's then-girlfriend, Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore.
But under cross-examination, Hardy, an official with the D.C. Department of Employment Services, said he was aware that the contract proposal had come "from the District Building." Roberts asked whether that meant Barry's office, and Hardy said yes.
The controversy about Stays arose when Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith E. Retchin, in the government's first cross-examination of the case, asked Stays whether he had told fellow officer Goodwine that longtime Barry friend Willie Davis was the mayor's main cocaine supplier.
"No, ma'am," Stays replied, before Mundy had time to object. Jackson dismissed the jury, as he often does when he expects extended discussion about the admissibility of evidence. Then Retchin told the judge that "the government has evidence that this witness has used cocaine within the statute of limitation."
Retchin argued that prosecutors should be allowed to question Stays on the subject because, she said, Stays's own drug use might give him a motive to conceal alleged drug use by Barry. Mundy argued forcefully that the question was impermissible because Stays had never been convicted of drug use, and that in any case, it was irrelevant to the case against Barry.
"This will impact heavily on the defense's case," Mundy said, "because we haven't sat down with all of our witnesses and asked them about any prior drug use at any time."
But Jackson eventually ruled that the government had the right to ask the question. He added that he had provided "lots and lots" of latitude for Mundy's earlier cross-examination of government witnesses.
A law enforcement source said authorities have two witnesses who could testify about Stays's alleged drug involvement.
Mundy conceded to reporters that the government's tactic "hurts." He said he expects the defense to land some punches of its own. "Even helicopters start slow," he said.
Retchin's suggestion about Stays's drug use is the result of inquiries by the police Internal Affairs Division into allegations of improprieties by some members of the security detail, law enforcement sources said. Top police officials have not been prepared to take action against any officer until the Barry trial is over, said a source, who added that changes are certain to be made then.
A law enforcement source said that internal affairs believes one security squad member saw drug use in Barry's entourage, and didn't pass on the information.
The source added that Goodwine has told authorities that he suspected Stays of using cocaine, and that Barry friend Davis was a main Barry cocaine supplier.
In court, Mundy said Stays never tested positive for drugs in random police urinalysis tests. But a source said Stays took only scheduled urine tests.
A knowledgeable source said that Stays was asked to take a urinalysis test after Barry's Jan. 18 arrest, and that Stays replied that he would think about it. Stays never took the test, the source said, and was not ordered to do so because his superiors did not feel they had grounds to do so.
Earlier in the day, under questioning by Barry co-counsel Robert W. Mance, Stays had testified that he was with Barry on a March 1988 trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, with the mayor's son, Christopher, and a playmate of Christopher's. Stays said he saw no evidence that Barry used drugs there.
Three witnesses have testified that they either saw drug use by Barry on that trip, or that they used drugs in Barry's presence.
The veteran officer contradicted portions of testimony by Rasheeda Moore. She said that Stays once had baby-sat for her children while she and the mayor went out, and that he had commented as they left that he hoped they weren't going down to Florida Avenue, an area she said Stays knew to be one of their drug-buying sites.
Stays said he had never baby-sat for Moore's children.
On cross-examination, Stays confirmed that he frequently drove Barry to the homes of seven people named by prosecutors as co-conspirators in the case, but did not accompany the mayor inside.
After Stays finished testifying, his court-appointed lawyer, Ed Sussman, spoke with reporters outside the courtroom. Sussman said his client could "conceivably have had a Fifth Amendment privilege and declined to testify," but that "Mr. Stays's position was that he had never been involved in drug activities." Sussman said Stays didn't want to "hide behind" the Fifth Amendment. "He wanted to go out and give truthful testimony, which I believe he did." A city employee found to have taken the Fifth on a matter relating to his job can lose the job and pension benefits under city law.
Stays was followed on the stand by Goodwine, a 17-year police veteran who testified he had never seen Barry use drugs. Goodwine was on the detail between 1984 and 1989.
Under cross-examination, Goodwine denied telling investigators that he asked to be transferred from the security detail to his current present recruiting assignment because he was concerned about the taint of being associated with Barry. Goodwine testified that he wanted more time with his daughter.
Jackson ruled that Goodwine could not be asked whether he was told by Stays that Davis supplied Barry with cocaine. Jackson told Roberts at a bench conference that prosecutors would have to call Goodwine back to the stand during their rebuttal if they wanted to elicit that testimony.
Goodwine also testified that while he didn't tell investigators that he did not want to know about Barry's activities, he did try to leave the mayor alone at times.
Hardy, responding to questions from Mundy, described meeting Moore, her sister Mertine Moore and Carole Bland Jackson in June 1986, just before the start of Project Me. Hardy said he helped them improve their proposal and recommended that the city fund it.
Hardy said that his superior, Alexis Roberson, told him Barry wanted the size of Moore's contract doubled in 1987, its second year. Roberts noted that in 1987 the project received $106,000, more than twice its 1986 amount.
Staff writers Sari Horwitz and Elsa Walsh and researcher Matthew Lee contributed to this report.