The end of Mayor Marion Barry's trial yesterday provided something for both his supporters and detractors, an ambiguous resolution for a region sharply divided over questions of a mayor's alleged criminal conduct and whether the government went too far to catch him.
The acquittal on one cocaine possession charge and the jury's failure to reach a decision on other drug and perjury charges sparked spontaneous celebrations from Barry supporters who found confirmation of their belief that the mayor was the victim of an overzealous prosecutor.
And the guilty verdict on the charge that Barry had possessed cocaine with friend Doris Crenshaw at the Mayflower Hotel was at long last concrete proof to the mayor's detractors that the chief executive of the nation's capital was a cocaine user unfit to hold office.
Scores of interviews after the verdict was announced showed that people in the city and its suburbs were as divided as those who occupied the jury box. And their reactions came mostly along racial lines, with blacks generally supporting the mayor and whites disappointed by the verdict.
"In Georgetown, they were celebrating the day Barry was arrested," said Anthony Dada, 30, a taxi driver from Nigeria. He left the federal courthouse after the verdict was announced rubbing his hands. "Now the east side of the city will celebrate."
Nathaniel Lambert, 31, of the 600 block of 13th Street NE, was just about to eat when he learned that the verdict was pending. He immediately made his way to the courthouse, where he jumped with joy over the jury's decision and yelled at U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens to "Get out of town! Get out of town!"
He was one of a group of about six young men who slapped high fives, hugged each other and repeatedly chanted, in deep, booming voices: "Bar-ry! Bar-ry! Bar-ry!"
In Chevy Chase, Paul Tedesco, 56, who was walking along Connecticut Avenue, ridiculed the jury's failure to convict Barry on more than one misdemeanor possession charge. "If these people want a junkie for a mayor, that's their choice," Tedesco said. "It's just ridiculous."
Sam Gorwotz, 63, sitting with friends in the Chevy Chase Lounge, said the government should retry Barry in another city. "It was a miscarriage of justice," Gorwotz said. "They didn't deliberate long enough to bring in 14 guilty counts."
Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, was eating with singer Melba Moore at Joe and Mo's on Connecticut Avenue when she heard the verdict. "I'm glad it's over, if it's really over," Height said.
Height spoke of the pain the trial caused, a confluence of several public attitudes: the prosecution of black politicians, the ravages of drug abuse and pervasive racial tension. Height said she believed that Barry's credibility in black communities will remain high, bolstered by his years of labor in the civil rights movement. "He is still well respected," she said.
Differing opinions on the verdicts were expressed among a group of young white professionals, drinking 15 feet away at the Joe and Mo's bar.
"I think it sends out the wrong message to the community, to the youth," said Dan Tessauro, 30, of upper Northwest Washington, a salesman for a health group. "I'm not surprised, but I'm disgusted. The jury was obviously poorly selected. They should have had a change of venue to Dubuque, Iowa."
Kevin Thompson, 27, of Bowie, thought there should have been no trial. "It was a waste of money. There's no way he'll ever be convicted in this city," said the power supplies salesman. "The guy out on the street has to think, 'If he can do it, why not?' Entirely too much time and money was spent in the effort to catch the guy. Think how that money could have been spent in some areas of Northeast that really need police enforcement."
Anita Boch, a personnel consultant from upper Northwest Washington, said she was fed up with the "racial defense." "To call it racial is a cop-out. You can't scream racism if a white person is brought to trial."
Aarian Pope, 22, a junior sociology major at Howard University, said the predominently black crowd outside of the federal courthouse was justified in its celebration. "We've got a rigtht to be hostile," Pope said. "Our people are being persecuted. People are messing with us."
R. Calvin Lockridge, Ward 8 school board member and a frequent critic of Barry, said he was not shocked by the outcome because he expected compassion from a majority black jury that most likely thought the mayor had suffered enough.
"I'm not disappointed because I'm sure the jury that wasn't in the courtroom -- the general public -- is now aware they have had a junkie for a mayor," Lockridge said. "All the evidence in the trial brought that out very clearly.
"Jay Stephens may think he lost, but I don't think so. Now the public is aware from the trial that the mayor was an abuser of drugs, conspired to cover it up, and used his office to aid personal friends who were part of the conspiracy. We don't need a guilty verdict to tell us that."
The Rev. Ernest Gibson, pastor of First Rising Zion Baptist Church, said he hoped that verdict will allow the city and the mayor to move forward. "I think the important thing now is not to relive and re-enact the trial," Gibson said.
Added the Rev. John Mack, pastor of First Congregational Church: "Nobody comes out a victor."
Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, said he had expected the jury to return verdicts on more than two counts.
"The government threw the best they had at him, and they got only one guilty verdict," Williams said. "I don't see how the government can't be disappointed."
But west of Rock Creek Park, Richard Hines, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, called the outcome "a very sad state of affairs . . . . It means for the city that the mayor can't get a fair trial -- one that's fair to the city."
Those shocked that Barry was not convicted on more of the charges, especially the possession count stemming from the sting last January at the Vista Hotel, did not see entrapment when they watched the videotape of Barry and Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore. They saw only the mayor of Washington smoking crack from a makeshift pipe.
"If he was an innocent man, he wouldn't have been there at all," said Susan Hammond, a Rockville resident.
Bob Gibson, a federal worker from Woodbridge, said he was "completely surprised" by the outcome. "He was caught red-handed on camera."
Calvin W. Rolark, a local newspaper publisher and community activist in Southeast who has strongly criticized both the prosecution of Barry and coverage of the mayor by white-owned media, expected the results.
"Blacks at this particular time had an opportunity to help a black man, and that's what they did," Rolark said. "That's justice. The mayor has admitted he was a sick man, but the only person he had hurt was himself, nobody else. So why should he go to jail? I think that's what the jury is saying."
Michael Martin, who said he lives about a block from Barry in Southeast Washington, said Barry was judged by a jury of his peers. "I think the jury is a reflection of the city's population," he said. "If you took a cross section of the city, from Northwest to Southeast, the best you would come up with is ambivalence."