The Washington Post

Marion Barry gives boost to D.C. Mayor Vince Gray, calls federal investigation unfair

WASHINGTON, DC - D.C. Council man and former mayor Marion Barry, center, arrives for a press conference at MedStar National Rehabilitation Network on Wednesday March 05, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

D.C. Council member Marion Barry says voters should discount late-breaking developments in a federal investigation encircling Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) when they step into the voting booth in coming weeks to decide if Gray should serve a second term.

Barry did not go as far as endorsing Gray, but in an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, the city’s “mayor-for-life” offered his first assessment of the guilty plea by Gray donor Jeffrey Thompson and allegations that Gray personally asked Thompson for secret campaign spending on his behalf in 2010.

Gray has forcefully denied the allegations, calling them “lies.”

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Barry said of the long-running investigation moving forward just weeks before the April 1 primary. “No, you have to look at the whole game, not just one inning, look at all nine innings,” Barry said.

Gray remains innocent until proven guilty, “that’s the American way,” Barry said.

The former four-term mayor’s comments are sure to bolster Gray in heavily African American wards east of the Anacostia River, where the Gray’s support has softened but Barry remains deeply respected.

Barry himself was sentenced to six months in jail as mayor for cocaine possession in 1990. He said he spoke to Gray this week following the developments in the case. Thompson on Monday pled guilty to conspiracy to spend over $660,000 on Gray’s behalf, about two-thirds of which Thompson said Gray requested for get-out-the-vote and advertising to help win the 2010 election.

In the phone interview, Barry echoed criticisms levied by Gray and his campaign aides that Thompson appeared to be getting an extraordinarily lenient sentence in exchange for agreeing to testify against Gray.

“I think it’s strange and unexplainable how Jeffrey Thompson could have done all of these things, and probably end up with about six months, maybe, in home” arrest, Barry said.

“They say that if he continues to cooperate, they’ll drop the federal charges. It’s also strange that the IRS has gotten involved with this, saying [Thompson] filed false income taxes. I don’t know what Jeffrey Thompson said that could make them be that lenient.”

Barry mostly questioned the timing, so close to the April 1 primary, as well as early voting, which begins on Monday.

“I think it’s also strange that the prosecutor waited until three weeks before the election to come out with this, they knew about this some time back.”

Barry said he was still recuperating following two lengthy hospital stays for infections and other ailments in the last three months.

“I’ve been hospitalized,” Barry said, “I couldn’t be the force I wanted to be in this campaign.”

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.

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