- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

Federal prosecutors Thursday dropped a request that D.C. Council member Marion Barry be jailed for failing to pay his taxes on time, instead asking a judge to extend the former mayor’s probation, subject him to electronic monitoring and place him under a curfew.

“The government can read the tea leaves,” Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, said after a hearing in U.S. District Court.

During the proceedings before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Zeno repeated the request that Mr. Barry be incarcerated for violating the terms of his 2006 probation by failing to file his tax returns on time and said confining the council member on weekends or in a halfway house “would satisfy the government.”

But after probation officer Kurt Panzer told Judge Robinson that two facilities that could house Mr. Barry had either intermittent or no on-site medical care, Mr. Zeno requested that Mr. Barry’s probation be extended two years and that he be subject to 30 days of electronic home monitoring with a curfew for nights and weekends. Mr. Panzer also recommended extending Mr. Barry’s probation by two years.

Mr. Barry, 73, underwent a kidney transplant in February.



“For the reasons [Mr. Panzer] put out, we have changed our recommendations,” Mr. Zeno said.

Judge Robinson is expected to issue a written ruling in coming days.

Mr. Barry was sentenced to three years’ probation in 2006 after pleading guilty to not filing his tax returns from 1999 to 2004.

Prosecutors in 2007 unsuccessfully tried to have Mr. Barry’s probation revoked after he failed to file his 2005 taxes on time, and in February sought to send him to jail for being late with his 2007 tax returns - the eighth time in nine years that he failed to file on time, they said.

“Marion Barry is a man of substance and talent, and he should have used those gifts to avoid this situation,” Mr. Zeno said.

An affidavit in the case says Mr. Barry still owed more than $275,000 in taxes as of Jan. 8.

His attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., said Thursday Mr. Barry has paid taxes for the past three years, and court documents state that garnishments on Mr. Barry are being made by the D.C. and federal governments.

Mr. Cooke repeated that the council member had been distracted by health issues from filing his returns and that his failure to do so on time was not “willful.”

“All this clearly got his attention and it distracted him significantly,” Mr. Cooke said, noting that his client has been in the hospital three times since his February transplant. “The reality for him was he had to make some hard decisions about whether he was going to get himself well.”

Mr. Barry, moving slowly and looking frail, said after the hearing that the government had distorted the truth in its case against him.

“I’m looking forward to the day when we turn the page and put this behind us,” he said.

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