The following is the text of a letter from Mayor Marion Barry to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who is to sentence Barry today for his conviction on cocaine possession:
I write to you as a recovering alcoholic and a drug addict. This is an admission I have learned to accept since I entered an addiction treatment program nine months ago. I learned that I have an insidious disease that afflicts millions of Americans. Admitting to my illness was the first major step toward recovery.
The activities and behavior that I participated in while under the ravages of this disease were degrading and outrageous. I have been embarrassed and ashamed to see and remember myself in those circumstances. That behavior went against my basic value system and my upbringing. It has caused me, my family and the citizens of my city shame and enormous pain. For these actions, I am deeply sorry.
One of my greatest shames is that my behavior hurt, confused and disappointed young people, the very youth I have fought so hard to help and uplift. I was once one of those aspiring youth proud of my heritage. When my disease and the behavior I engaged in took over me and became public, I lost much of the respect and support I had struggled so long to gain in the black and white communities; and I had to give up my quest for a fourth term as mayor of the District of Columbia.
I had hoped to leave only a legacy of leadership in human and civil rights; instead, because of my actions, I must also live with a personal pain and shame that cannot be erased. When I sat in your courtroom each day, hearing things about myself that I had not wanted to face, I may have appeared to be calm and unmoved, but on the inside, I was suffering nearly unbearable humiliation and deepest regret.
What I want to do now is to use my experience to help, perhaps even save, others. The sickness of alcohol and drug addiction affects people of all races, all political parties, all economic levels. I have entered my lifelong commitment to recovery very much in the public eye. I pray that my success in this effort -- one day at a time -- will be an inspiration to others whose pain, while not as public, is just as deeply rooted. I want to be an example of not only the destructive nature of the disease but also with help, an example of how one can begin to rebuild one's life.
In its evaluation of my sentence, I ask the court to consider my commitment to sobriety and recovery. I have not used alcohol or any other mood-altering chemical since January 20, 1990. I ask the court further to consider my record of public service over the past 30 years. I am blessed to have a devoted family and loving friends who have stood with me throughout these painful times. Through prayer and the support of family and friends, I faithfully submit that the self-destructive, addictive behavior of the past will never recur.
In recovery, we learn that no matter what our profession is, we must atone by "giving back" in service. I want to continue to give to the people whom I have dedicated my professional life to serve; and I believe I owe a debt of gratitude to those who have so willingly offered their understanding and their prayers for me as I walk this road of recovery.
I ask the court for leniency in its decision on my sentence. As society redefines its approach to and solutions for the disease of addiction, I respectfully ask the court to decide that the best way for me to be punished for my crime is through service to the community.