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Barry gets six months for drug possession conviction

By
TRACEY WEBB

WASHINGTON -- A judge sentenced Mayor Marion Barry Friday to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine for his conviction on a cocaine possession charge, saying the chief executive of the nation's capital gave 'aid, comfort and encouragement to the drug culture.'

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered the three-term mayor to one year on probation after his release from prison and ordered him to undergo periodic drug testing.

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Because he was convicted of a misdemeanor, Barry will not be forced to relinquish his office before his term ends Jan. 2. Under city law, he also can continue his bid for the at-large City Council seat in the Nov. 6 elections.

Barry would have been forced to step down if he had been convicted of a felony.

The mayor's wife, Effi, and his mother, Mattie Cummings, looked on as Barry stood before the judge next to one of his attorneys, Robert Mance.

Jackson found that Barry engaged in a 'willful attempt to obstruct justice' by lying to a grand jury about his drug use, a charge which makes jail time mandatory under U.S. sentencing guidelines.

Jackson said he will let the government decide in which prison Barry will be incarcerated. He allowed Barry to remain free on his personal recognizance and told Barry he had the right to appeal.

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'His breach of public service alone is of the highest consideration, ' Jackson said in delivering the sentence, adding that Barry gave 'aid, comfort and encouragement to the drug culture.'

As he stood before the judge, Barry said, 'I stand here remorseful and I ask this court to impose community service as a sentence.'

Before the sentencing, Barry told the judge he was nervous.

'My stomach is in knots,' he said. 'I am prepared and have been prepared to take full responsibility for my actions. These actions were out of character.'

He admitted his former dependence to alcohol, valium, an anti- depressant and cocaine, saying, 'I believe I've led an exemplary life since Jan. 18,' the day of his arrest. He said it was the 279th day he was free of any drug.

Paul Martin, a spokesman for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, said Barry must serve the entire six months in jail because federal sentencing guidelines that went into effect in 1987 abolished parole.

In addition, because Barry's sentence was under a year, he is not eligible for 'good time.'

'Six months is six months,' Martin said. 'That's what he will have to serve.

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'If the judge had not found obstruction of justice, he could've given (Barry) straight probation. But with obstruction there's a mandatory minimum jail sentence of two months, and it goes up to eight months.'

Defense attorney R. Kenneth Mundy said he was 'disappointed' by the jail sentence, and added, 'The final chapter has not been written.'

'We will be appealing and we fully expect that the appeal process will take a little while.' Mundy said.

He said Barry, who left the courthouse through a side door without speaking to reporters, was 'disappointed too.'

'He was disappointed, very honestly disappointed,' Mundy said.NEWLN: more

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered the three-term mayor to one year on probation after his release from prison and ordered him to undergo periodic drug testing.

The mayor's wife, Effi, and his mother, Mattie Cummings, looked on as Barry stood before the judge next to one of his attorneys, Robert Mance.NEWLN: more

Jackson will let the government decide in which prison Barry will be incarcerated. He allowed Barry to remain free on his personal recognizance and told Barry he had the right to appeal.

'His breach of public service alone is of the highest consideration, ' Jackson said in delivering the sentence. The judge also said that Barry gave 'aid, comfort and encouragement to the drug culture.'

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He also found that Barry engaged in a 'willful attempt to obstruct justice' by lying to a grand jury about his drug use. NEWLN: more

As he stood before the judge, Barry said, 'I stand here remorseful and I ask this court to impose community service as a sentence.'

Before the sentencing, Barry told the judge he was nervous.

'My stomach is in knots,' he said. 'I am prepared and have been prepared to take full responsibility for my actions. These actions were out of character.'

He admitted his former dependence to alcohol, valium, an anti- depressant and cocaine, saying, 'I believe I've led an exemplary life since Jan. 18,' the day of his arrest. He said it was the 279th day he was free of any drug.NEWLN: more

Barry will not be forced to relinquish his office before his term ends Jan. 2 because he was convicted of a misdemeanor. Under city law, he also can continue his bid for the at-large City Council seat in the Nov. 6 elections.

Barry would have been forced to step down if he had been convicted of a felony.

In arguing for leniency, defense attorney R. Kenneth Mundy reminded Jackson that Barry is a first-time offender and that most defendants convicted on drug possession charges receive probation.

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'I ask the court not to judge Mr. Barry as the government would have on evidence of unproven charges that the jury did not buy into,' Mundy said. 'It's for the public to judge Marion Barry ... as to what his future role will be, if any.'

Prosecutor Judith Retchin said Barry's offense was 'hardly a simple misdemeanor committed by a first-time offender.' She said evidence at his trial showed that for five years he engaged in 'a pervasive pattern of using illegal narcotics and using his position to obtain drugs.'

Barry's sentencing came 2 months after a jury convicted him on a single count of drug possession, acquitted him on another and deadlocked on 12 other counts. It was the first time a Washington mayor was convicted of a crime. Barry was arrested in a police 'sting' operation at a Washington hotel in January.

The sentencing brought to an end a chapter in the city's history of racial divisiveness resulting from Barry's arrest and conviction on drug possession charges.

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