Marion Barry: No Longer ‘Invincible’ to His Critics With PM-Barry, Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The election of Marion S. Barry Jr. as mayor of the nation’s capital was celebrated throughout black America. The son of a Mississippi sharecropper, a scarred veteran of the civil rights movement, he had soared to what he long preached as its ultimate goal - political power.
Now, 12 years later, many see him not as the portrayer of promise, but of betrayal.
Though the energized hope which Barry bore into the mayor’s office had long since lost its gleam, it virtually went up in smoke with a few videotaped puffs on a cocaine pipe in an FBI ″sting″ operation a month ago.
The charge then was a single misdemeanor count. But many contended the arrest showed that Barry, 53, had reneged upon his obligation to wage war on the drug dealers who have brought so much violence and pain to the capital and its children.
On Thursday, a federal grand jury unfurled a longer list of charges: Three felony counts, for allegedly lying about his drug use, and five more misdemeanor counts for alleged possession.
For years there had been questions about whether Barry, a former lieutenant to Martin Luther King Jr., had been corrupted by the power he sought since his days of chopping cotton and waiting tables. But Barry pronounced himself ″invincible″ to his critics, whether in or out of law enforcement.
″What I have done,″ he told a Los Angeles Times reporter in a memorable barroom interview just two months ago, ″nobody knows about, because I don’t get caught.″
And for more than a decade it seemed he was invincible. He was twice re- elected, using as his base a city payroll which included one out of every 12 residents. He courted his predominantly black constituency by steering housing projects, jobs programs and government contracts their way.
That support did not falter, even as basic municipal services remained in disarray despite the huge payroll - three times the size, on a per capita basis, of the city government of Los Angeles. To this day residents can spend hours waiting for a simple license renewal and days to have their streets cleared of snow.
Nor was the mayor troubled by matters that would do in other politicians. He frequented topless bars and cruised around town in his blue limousine, paying nocturnal visits to a variety of people who ordinarily wouldn’t be expected to have a mayor drop by - known drug dealers, low-grade city workers, young women. He made mystery trips to tropical spots, sometimes in the company of a woman not his wife, including one, Rasheeda Moore, who eventually turned against him by working for the FBI.
A previous wife, Mary Treadwell, and several close associates, including two deputy mayors, went to prison over various charges of misconduct. One aide bought the mayor’s second wife, Effi, a mink coat with city funds, repaid by Barry after the episode was publicized.
Through all of that, Barry would simply refuse to answer the more troublesome questions about his behavior. Instead, he suggested they came from a racist media and a Republican administration eager to return control of the city to a white Congress. Many Washingtonians believed him, and when Barry scheduled an announcement last month that he would run for a fourth term, few were prepared to bet against him.
That changed in a heartbeat, when Ms. Moore, a former high-fashion model in trouble with the law, called him and invited him to her room in the Vista International Hotel. Next door were the FBI agents who watched his every move and videotaped them.
Four days later, on the day he was to declare his renewed candidacy, Barry instead entered St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church near his home. And, in a confession to his public and an apology to his wife, he acknowledged he had succumbed to ″weaknesses.″
″How I wish I could trade this hour,″ he declared in tears. ″This time, I’ve come face to face with my deepest human failures.″
With that, Barry was off to a drug treatment center in Florida. When he will return remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the grand jury returned on Thursday.