D.C. Council Member Accused of Traffic-Related Offenses
By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 2, 2007; 1:08 PM
A D.C. Superior Court judge today set a June 12 trial date for Council member Marion Barry on several traffic offenses -- charges that Barry and his attorney insist are unfounded.
Barry (D), a former mayor and now Ward 8's representative on the D.C. Council, rejected an offer to plead guilty to operating under the influence. As part of the plea agreement, the other charges, including the more serious offense of driving under the influence, would have been dropped as would the charges filed in connection with a subsequent traffic stop.
In a hearing this morning, Barry's lawyer, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., told Magistrate Judge Milton C. Lee that there was little common ground between the D.C. attorney general's office and the defense and that a deal is unlikely.
"He can't plead guilty to an offense he didn't commit," Cooke said.
The charges against Barry, who stood next to his lawyer during the brief hearing, stem from two traffic stops last year in the District.
On Sept. 10, Barry was stopped by uniformed Secret Service officers near the White House after he allegedly ran a red light and was found, police said, to smell of alcohol. Barry was asked to take a breathalyzer test. After his first try came in below the legal limit, officers said they wanted to conduct a urine test for alcohol, Cooke said in an interview after the hearing. But Barry refused to provide a urine sample, and according to Cooke, said that he would take another breath test.
The officers charged him with driving under the influence, as they can when a driver refuses to test. But Cooke said that the officers should have given Barry another breath test unless they documented some reason why they could not. Absent that, Cooke said, all they have to stand on is Barry's .02 reading, which is below the legal limit.
"The only objective data says that he was not intoxicated," Cooke said.
But Traci L. Hughes, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said the officers had the discretion to demand that Barry submit to a different type of test and the authority to charge him when he did not.
The second traffic incident took place Dec. 16, when Barry was stopped by U.S. Park Police officers in Southeast Washington for driving too slowly. Police said they found that Barry's license was suspended, but he insisted it was not, and the attorney general's office did not file such a charge.
Prosecutors did, however, file other charges against Barry, who as in the first incident was driving a loaner car while his vehicle was being repaired. Barry was charged with misuse of temporary tags and operating an unregistered vehicle.
Cooke said Barry did not know that there was any problem with the registration of his loaner vehicle and had no reason to think there was, and therefore did nothing wrong.
"It's undue harassment," Barry said after the hearing. "They know they don't have a case."