Marion Barry Tests Positive for Cocaine Use

Barry Tested Positive for Cocaine Use In the Fall

D.C. Council member Marion Barry tested positive for cocaine use in the fall in a drug test ordered by a court after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax charges, according to two sources familiar with Barry’s case. Barry, who served four terms as mayor and was elected to the Ward 8 council seat in 2004, has since begun treatment for drug use, the sources said, but Barry’s failure to pass the mandatory drug test puts him in legal jeopardy. Because he violated the terms of his release, Barry, 69, faces an increased risk of serving the maximum 18 months behind bars — rather than probation — for his failure to file tax returns for six years. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 8, but a federal judge could jail him or sanction him at any time.

Barry, interviewed last night in his Howard University Hospital room, where he’s being treated for hypertension, said he did not deny accounts of his drug test and treatment but declined to discuss his case. “Write what you want to write,” he told a Washington Post reporter. “That’s my official quote. No more, no less.”

Barry pleaded guilty Oct. 28 to the misdemeanor tax charges, and as a condition of being released on his own recognizance, he was required to undergo drug testing soon after, court records show. But, according to two sources close to Barry and an official familiar with his case, the court’s probation office notified U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson and prosecutors in or around November that Barry’s test result was positive for drug use. Two of the three sources said the drug was cocaine. The sources asked not to be identified because a court case is pending. Robinson has not revoked Barry’s bond or ordered him jailed pending sentencing, as she could have because of the drug infraction, court records say. Nor did prosecutors seek to cancel their plea agreement with Barry, in which they had said they would not oppose his effort to seek probation at sentencing.


Drug problems and speculation about drug use have plagued Barry through much of the latter part of his 30-year political career. In 1990, during his third term as mayor, Barry was arrested at the Vista Hotel after being videotaped smoking crack, an image that for years has haunted him and the city he led. Barry’s arrest was followed by seven weeks in treatment centers in Florida and South Carolina. He repeatedly invoked God upon his return, in keeping, a spokesman said at the time, with his 12-step, faith-based treatment program.

After serving six months for cocaine possession in the Vista incident, Barry led a political comeback in 1992, winning a D.C. Council seat and then a fourth term as mayor two years later.

While preparing to run in 2002 for an at-large council seat, U.S. Park Police reported that they found a trace of marijuana and $5 worth of crack cocaine in Barry’s Jaguar while he was parked at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington. Police never charged Barry, who then scrapped his campaign plans. When he campaigned for a Ward 8 seat in 2004, he claimed in interviews that the Park Police planted the drugs in his car.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the bitch set him up.

Update: Added link to the Barry quote. Here’s an excerpt for those too young to remember it:

Jurors View Videotape of Barry Drug Arrest
By Tracy Thompson and Elsa Walsh
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 29, 1990; Page A01

Eighteen jurors, intent on missing no detail, watched yesterday as a television screen showed D.C. Mayor Marion Barry taking two long drags from a crack pipe in a room at the Vista Hotel on Jan. 18. It was the first public screening of the FBI videotape that showed Barry’s arrest on drug possession charges.

Within moments, the screen became a blur of sound and action as FBI agents stormed the room, grabbing Barry, placing him up against a wall with his arms outstretched and reading him his rights before leading him away in handcuffs.

The enraged Barry muttered over and over, “Bitch set me up . . . . I shouldn’t have come up here . . . goddamn bitch” — references to the woman who lured him to the hotel, former girlfriend Hazel Diane “Rasheeda” Moore.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Isn’t that like Ted Kennedy flunking a Breathalyzer? Or Pat Robertson having a brain scan and the results coming back negative?

  2. Sgt Fluffy says:

    “Marion Barry Tests Positive for Cocaine Use”

    When has he not?

  3. M. Murcek says:

    Ouch! That was Lawrence Taylor who said that, right?