- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

A federal judge yesterday postponed D.C. Council member Marion Barry’s sentencing on tax charges because the former four-term mayor had not submitted financial data, arranged to pay off his taxes or filed his delinquent returns.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson ordered Mr. Barry, 69, to report to the probation office immediately after his appearance in U.S. District Court yesterday. She allowed him to remain free pending sentencing, rescheduled for March 9.

Mr. Barry, who faces a sentence ranging from probation to 18 months imprisonment, pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor count of failing to file federal or local tax returns on more than $500,000 in income from 1999 to 2004.

Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors have agreed to take no position on his request for probation.

But prosecutors also warned that “government is unable to abide by its promises regarding sentencing” unless Mr. Barry files his returns, according to a memo filed this week.

“The government does not understand why Mr. Barry did not file until yesterday,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James W. Cooper told Judge Robinson yesterday. “I do think it is necessary that the court have the opportunity to understand whether Mr. Barry’s returns are truthful in order to proceed to sentencing.”

Mr. Barry’s attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., said his client filed the returns Tuesday, calling them “true and accurate.”

Mr. Cooke blamed “intervening circumstances” for Mr. Barry’s failure to turn over financial information to probation officials.

The probation office needs the information to determine any fines Mr. Barry might face. Under the plea deal, he could receive up to $105,000 in fines.

Mr. Cooke said Mr. Barry is cooperating with the Internal Revenue Service, but any arrangements to pay off his taxes might not occur soon because of expected negotiations.

“Mr. Barry agrees to cooperate with the IRS and will meet their demands,” the attorney said.

Neither Mr. Cooke nor prosecutors yesterday mentioned Mr. Barry’s positive test for marijuana and cocaine in November.

But in a court papers filed this week, prosecutors warned of sanctions, including “revocation of release,” if Mr. Barry tests positive again.

Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, declined to comment after the hearing.

Wearing a dark suit with a white shirt and red tie, he appeared upbeat entering the courtroom. “Don’t I look good?” he asked reporters before taking his seat at the defense table.

He spent most of the hearing listening to Judge Robinson with his hands folded under his chin.

Before the hearing, 10 Barry supporters rallied outside on the court plaza facing Constitution Avenue NW, alternately chanting “Free D.C.” and “Free Barry.”

“Despite some lapses that we have to admit happened with Mr. Barry, he was and is one of the leaders of the civil rights movement,” said Anise Jenkins, 54. “Idealistically, we should not be in court for [tax reasons], so I think he should be let go.”

It is not clear whether Mr. Barry will be able to avoid prison. If he is imprisoned on the tax charges, however, he would not have to surrender his seat on the council because his offense is a misdemeanor.

Mr. Barry served six months in prison after his 1990 arrest in an FBI sting that caught the former mayor smoking crack cocaine.

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