Sentencing Delayed for Former D.C. Mayor

Late documents will mean a later sentencing for former Mayor Marion Barry. A judge continued a sentencing hearing Wednesday after the defense failed to file several documents required under a plea deal on tax evasion charges.

Barry, 69, arrived at the courthouse a couple minutes after the scheduled 10 a.m. sentencing after a late night D.C. Council vote on a baseball stadium lease. He was dressed in a dark gray suit, white shirt with French cuffs and burgundy stripped tie. He joked with a few supporters in the courtroom that dressing sharp caused him to be a bit late for court.

The Ward 8 councilman faces anything from probation to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 for willful failure to file federal and city tax returns for 2000. As part of his October plea agreement, Barry acknowledged not filing federal or District of Columbia taxes from 1999 -- when he left the mayor's office a final time -- through 2004.

During that period, court records indicate he earned at least $534,000 as a contract consultant for brokerage firms where he offered municipal bond investment advice.

Barry's attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., said he filed the missing returns Tuesday. But Assistant U.S. Attorney James W. Cooper didn't understand the delay.

"At the time this agreement was negotiated, it was our understanding Mr. Barry was imminently able to file the returns," Cooper said. He explained that filing so late was a problem because the government must determine before sentencing if the returns appear truthful.

"We have done our best to be conservative in our filing and we believe them to be true and accurate," Cooke said.

Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson told Cooke that she also had not received a copy of his pre-sentencing report, and gave him until 4 p.m. to file it. Cooke said he thought he submitted it, but didn't have a copy in court.

Robinson gave the defense until Feb. 17 to provide other documents, including a financial statement and a payment plan for back taxes that the IRS has approved. She rescheduled sentencing for March 9.

"No, I'm not going to have any comment," Barry said as he left the courthouse.

The judge allowed him to remain free pending the new sentencing date. Prosecutors were given the chance to ask that Barry be jailed, but declined.

Compounding his tax problems, Barry tested positive for cocaine and marijuana use during a Nov. 17 drug test, according to the U.S. Attorney's sentencing memorandum.

In 1990, during his third term as mayor, an FBI sting caught Barry on video smoking crack in a hotel room. The following year he served a six month prison sentence, then went on to win the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat in 1992.

Voters returned him to the mayor's office in 1994, but he did not seek a fifth term. Two years ago he returned to politics, regaining his old council seat.

Under his plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to take a position on Barry's expected request for probation, though they are seeking regular drug testing.

Should he go to prison, Barry would remain eligible to serve in the Council, though he could not attend meetings. He would not be obligated to resign.