The Mayor of Washington Takes a Hit


On January 18, 1990, Marion Barry, the Mayor of Washington DC was arrested for possession of crack-cocaine and perjury.  The arrest came after an investigation by the FBI and DC Metro Police into Barry’s alleged cocaine usage and the sale of cocaine by one of his associates.

By the time Barry was running for his third term as mayor in 1986, he was showing some serious signs of drug and alcohol abuse.  He was regularly showing up to work around noon, often hung over.  He was observed at public appearances with glassy eyes and slurred speech.  Barry was essentially an absentee landlord, and it was starting to affect the city.  Crime was through the roof.  City services were notably declining.  The mayor was not in any condition to handle these problems. 

In December 1988, police were conducting a drug sales investigation into Marion Barry’s associate, Charles Lewis.  As police were investigating Lewis’ hotel room, they found that the mayor was in the room and temporarily backed off.  Lewis was later arrested for sale in an FBI sting.  Mayor Barry was called in the grand jury and apparently lied about his drug use and relationship with Lewis. 

The FBI and DC police turned their investigation towards the drug addled mayor.  They found that one of Barry’s paramours, Rasheeda Moore, was facing some legal trouble and cut a deal with her to get close to Barry.  She agreed to get him to come to the Vista Hotel to meet up.  In that hotel room were a few of Barry’s favorite things, a beautiful woman, a bottle of Hennessy, and crack-cocaine. 

Moore convinced Barry that she could have some crack bought to the room and Marion agreed to smoke it.  As soon as he took a hit, the FBI ran into the room and placed Barry under arrest.  He knew exactly what just happened, exclaiming, “Bitch set me up…I shouldn’t have come up here…goddamn bitch”.  Truer words were never spoken.  Moore had done her part and dodged an arrest for perjury in the same case that Barry was now facing.  Barry was charged with three counts of perjury for lying to the grand jury in the Lewis case and ten counts of drug possession.  (there were nine other events that the FBI had evidence of besides the sting)

Barry didn’t skip a beat.  After a short stint in rehab, he continued to serve the people of Washington in his own unique way.  He went to trial and beat most of the charges.  He was only found guilty of one count of drug possession, and it wasn’t the one on video.  Jurors felt that he was entrapped (probably rightly so).  He was sentenced to six months in jail but was able to finish out his term as mayor. 

In a comeback worthy of a Rocky movie, Barry managed to revive his political career.  He was elected as Mayor of Washington for a fourth time in 1994.

Christopher Flanagan 

photo By Elvert Barnes (see here) – File:Barry 1996.jpg, indirectly from, CC BY-SA 2.0,


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