- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

Prosecutors will not pursue stalking charges against D.C. Council member Marion Barry, the U.S. attorney’s office announced late Wednesday after days of accusations, countercharges and drama involving the former mayor and a one-time girlfriend.

Mr. Barry was arrested Saturday by U.S. Park Police and charged with misdemeanor stalking.

“Following a review of the evidence relating to stalking allegations against Marion Barry and a careful analysis of the relevant factors, including the elements of the offense and the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has decided not to pursue stalking charges in this matter,” a press release stated.

The woman he was suspected of stalking, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, 40, is a former girlfriend for whom Mr. Barry, 73, had arranged a city contract worth $60,000.

Details of their rocky relationship have emerged since Saturday. He was arrested in Southeast at dark. The two had gone to Annapolis for lunch. Surrogates for both parties contacted media outlets with counterclaims about the nature of their relationship and made accusations calling into question the stability of the opposite party.

On Wednesday, the Web site for the Washington City Paper posted recordings purportedly of Mr. Barry. Nine were said to be taped messages left on Mrs. Watts-Brighthaupt’s answering machine and another was a recorded fight between the couple, in which Mrs. Watts-Brighthaupt compared their relationship to rock icons Ike and Tina Turner’s.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Barry, Natalie Williams, released a statement Wednesday about the taped conversations.

“The content of these tapes have absolutely nothing to do with the arrest of Mr. Barry on July 4th and under no circumstances incriminates Mr. Barry of any crime. Instead, the release of the tapes does nothing more than show the true mindset and character of his accuser,” she said.

On Tuesday night, Ms. Williams tried to explain away any possible impropriety of Mr. Barry arranging a city contract for his then-girlfriend.

“It is not unusual nor is it illegal for council members to award contracts to supporters who qualify or can provide the services that are required,” she said at a hastily-called 11 p.m. press conference.

Ms. Williams continued to air the Barry camp’s assertion that Mrs. Watts-Brighthaupt is mentally unstable and in the care of a mental health professional.

The news conference then took an unusual turn; Mrs. Watts-Brighthaupt appeared from behind the scenes and repeatedly shouted “That’s not true.” Ms. Williams, who appeared to be slightly unsettled, continued with her statement.

When asked Wednesday about the assertion that city contracts are doled out regularly to friends and supporters, Ms. Williams said, “My comments aren’t to point the finger at any other council members. My intent was solely to defend council member Barry’s decision in awarding Ms. Watts a contract, meaning to say that something like this is not so uncommon and that it is not illegal that it has to be made a big deal of in the newspaper.”

In response to media queries concerning the issue, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray issued a press release outlining “actions underway to improve council procedures, rules and standards.”

He said his office has been “investigating and formulating various procedures for months in relation to council member and staff conduct that may affect their professional duties.” The release did not mention Mr. Barry by name nor did it reference the contract issued to Mrs. Watts-Brighthaupt.

After the announcement that prosecutors would not pursue charges, Sgt. David Schlosser, a spokesman for the Park Police, defended the arrest.

“Sufficient probable cause was developed on July 4 to arrest Marion Barry. After consultation with the U.S. attorney’s office a charge of stalking was placed. The U.S. attorney’s office has declined to pursue it further,” he said.

Mr. Barry was arrested by a Park Police officer in 2002 after traces of marijuana and cocaine were found in his parked car at Buzzard Point in Southwest.

No charges were filed, and Mr. Barry said the drugs were planted.

In 2006, a Park Police officer stopped him for driving too slowly and ticketed him for operating a vehicle on a suspended license. Charges were dropped after it was confirmed his license had not been suspended.

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