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Woman Chooses Jail Over Testifying on Barry

February 14, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A woman who sources say had a personal relationship with Mayor Marion Barry is staying in jail rather than testify before a federal grand jury investigating alleged drug use by the mayor.

U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn ordered Maria McCarthy of Greensboro, N.C., jailed for civil contempt of court after she refused to testify Tuesday, said her attorney, Leslie Scherr.

Penn granted McCarthy immunity from prosecution after she initially refused to testify Tuesday, but she still wouldn’t talk to the grand jury and was sent to jail, Scherr said.

Prosecutors are reportedly close to requesting the grand jury to indict Barry, who was arrested Jan. 18 on a cocaine possession charge, on new charges. Scherr said McCarthy told him, ″I have to live with myself, whether he was a friend or enemy, we had a relationship that doesn’t need public scrutiny.″

The attorney wouldn’t tell reporters whether McCarthy was referring to Barry, but two city government sources familiar with Barry’s social life said Barry and McCarthy had a personal relationship.

″It’s not really loyalty″ that kept her from testifying, said Scherr, ″but some kind of moral code she lives by.″

Scherr said McCarthy knows Rasheeda Moore, the woman who cooperated in the FBI sting operation that resulted in Barry’s arrest at a Washington hotel. Scherr declined to comment further on McCarthy’s relationship with Moore or the mayor.

Under law, McCarthy can be held in jail as long as the grand jury hearing evidence in the case remains in session. Grand juries are normally empaneled for 18 months at a time, but can be extended if the case continues.

The grand jury is investigating Barry’s ties to former city employee Charles Lewis, who has cooperated with the panel after pleading guilty to two cocaine conspiracy charges. Lewis, who has also been convicted of cocaine distribution charges in his native Virgin Islands, testified in open court that he supplied Barry with crack cocaine.

Barry, who is enrolled in a Florida substance abuse treatment center, has denied using drugs with Lewis.

The federal probe began in December 1988 after city police aborted an undercover drug purchase from Lewis when they learned Barry was in Lewis’ downtown Washington hotel room.

McCarthy is the second woman jailed for refusing to testify about Barry. Convicted cocaine dealer Karen Johnson served eight months in jail in 1984 after refusing to tell authorities whether she gave drugs to Barry or who her drug supplier was.

Scherr said that as far as he knew, McCarthy had no contracts with the city government or any involvement in companies doing business with the city.

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