Prosecution Seeking to Bolster Case Against D.C. Mayor
LAWRENCE L. KNUTSON
Jun. 23, 1990
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Prosecutors are seeking to bolster their narcotics and perjury case against Mayor Marion Barry, presenting back-up circumstantial evidence that Barry smoked crack cocaine and sought to cover it up.
As Barry's narcotics and perjury trial ended its first week in U.S. District Court on Friday, his lawyers attacked the credibility of prosecution witnesses.
Chief defense counsel R. Kenneth Mundy told reporters he intends to win not by a knockout blow but by ''nicking and bruising'' prosecution witnesses and building up doubts about their stories in the minds of jury members.
Defense lawyers did not directly dispute the testimony of James McWilliams, a city government lawyer, that he found Barry slumped late one night in a hotel bathroom littered with drug paraphernalia.
Instead, they sought to call into question the plea bargain McWilliams made with the government for a lighter sentence and to pose the possibility he bore a grudge against Barry for insufficient help with his job problems.
McWilliams said he remained a ''loyal soldier'' in the Barry camp for 15 months after the incident in December 1988, lying about it to city investigators and refusing to testify before a federal grand jury.
''I had taken the Fifth Amendment to partially protect myself and partially to protect the mayor,'' he testified.
But he said he cooperated fully with federal authorities after spending thousands of dollars in legal fees and after learning that prosecutors were ready to indict him on narcotics distribution charges involving small gifts of cocaine to a woman friend.
Lewis, testifying over three days earlier in the week, said he and Barry smoked crack on four occasions in December 1988 and that when investigators learned of it he and the mayor tried to lead them off the trail.
McWilliams said he went to the Ramada Inn here at the invitation of Charles Lewis, a former city employee who has since been convicted of drug dealing, but only as an opportunity to lobby Barry for a job transfer.
McWilliams said Barry and Lewis disappeared repeatedly throughout the evening to visit the kitchen and bathroom areas of the hotel suite.
''The smoke and the ... smell ... got stronger as the evening went on,'' he said.
After he arrived at the hotel room, he said, Lewis borrowed $40 and said he was ''going out to get some stuff.''
''I understood he was going to go out and get some drugs'' with the money, McWilliams said. Lewis came back with a plastic bag ''that had a white substance inside,'' he said.
McWilliams said Barry arrived later, then went repeatedly with Lewis into the bathroom and kitchen, each visit followed by plumes of smoke and ''a strong, unusual smell.''
''What did they say when they came back'' from the bathroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Roberts asked.
That ''this is good stuff ... I will go back and have another hit,'' McWilliams replied.
McWilliams said that at one point he went to the bathroom to try to talk to the mayor about his job situation and found him fully clothed, sitting on the toilet within arm's reach of a vanity littered with matches, white residue in plastic bags and a tin-foil-covered glass.
The mayor appeared restful and was ''just slumped over a little bit,'' McWilliams said.
''I kept making my pitch about the job,'' he said.
''He looked up and said, 'you know, you look a lot like Santa Claus,''' said McWilliams, whose beard is heavily streaked with gray.
McWilliams did not say that he saw Barry actually use drugs. But he referred to the Santa Claus remark when asked if Barry was coherent.
Barry, 54, a three-term mayor, is being tried on three felony counts of perjury, 10 misdemeanor charges of cocaine possession and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to possess cocaine.