- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was sentenced yesterday to three years of probation and ordered to pay almost $250,000 in delinquent taxes and interest for failing to file federal and city returns in 2000.

“I take full responsibility,” said Mr. Barry, 70. “There’s no excuse and no reasons that anybody could give why anyone would not pay.”

Under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Mr. Barry also acknowledged failing to file returns in 1999 and from 2001 to 2004.

Mr. Barry was unsure about how much he earned during that time but did not challenge federal prosecutors’ claim he made more than $534,000.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson declined to impose jail time or additional fines on Mr. Barry, saying that repaying such a sum is burdensome enough.

Mr. Barry’s legal problems were compounded when he tested positive for cocaine during a drug screening shortly after his plea agreement last year.

Mr. Barry served four terms as D.C. mayor, with his last ending in early 1999. He returned to politics in 2004 when he was elected as a D.C. Council member for Ward 8.

He was videotaped smoking crack cocaine Jan. 19, 1990, in a downtown hotel room during an FBI sting operation. He served six months and has since acknowledged seeking treatment or counseling for substance abuse.

The hearing yesterday was originally scheduled for last month but was postponed because Mr. Barry waited until the day before to file his returns. He further confounded prosecutors by waiting until early this week to contact the IRS about repaying his taxes, a condition of his probation.

“While this was technically within the terms of the agreement … we had understood that this would be done much earlier,” said James Cooper, an assistant U.S. attorney. “Frankly, given the lack of vigor Mr. Barry has demonstrated … we’re not confident that Mr. Barry will make a good-faith effort.”

Prosecutors also said Mr. Barry is a public official who imposes taxes on others, so he should be willing and able to pay his own.

“It is an insult to those people that a sitting public official has behaved the way he has,” Mr. Cooper said.

Frederick D. Cooke Jr., Mr. Barry’s attorney, defended his client, saying he’s broke, not lazy.

Mr. Barry also asked the court and D.C. residents to forgive him.

“I’m a strong Christian and I do believe in redemption,” he said. “We all fall in the eyes of God, and we all do things we’re not proud of. … I ask for the forgiveness of this court and of the citizens of the District of Columbia.”

Judge Robinson told Mr. Barry that to stay on probation he must comply with his probation officer’s requirements — including random drug testing.

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said failing a drug test could result in Mr. Barry serving the full jail time of 18 months.

Mr. Cooke said he is looking for ways to accept donations to help Mr. Barry pay his taxes, which will be difficult because his client is a public official.

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