Sunday, April 26, 2015

Marion Barry: up in smoke

The first brush Marion Barry Jr. had with the law was a dispute over a parking violation in 1969. After spotting two police officers ticketing vehicles, Barry said to one of them, "If you put a ticket on my car...I'll kill you." When the officer called Barry's bluff, he tore the ticket up and threw the pieces into the policeman's face. In the ensuing scuffle, he struck the other officer in the face and tore his shirt. Barry, charged with assault, could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Instead, his case ended with a hung jury and two co-defendants were acquitted.

Barry would get in hot water for much more serious charges over the years, none more sensational than a 1990 incident in which he was caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine. Nevertheless, he became such a popular local figure in Washington, D.C. that both his supporters and detractors referred to him as the "Mayor for Life." Going from the son of an impoverished black family in the South to a leadership role in the nation's capital proved to be an inspiring story for many of his constituents, even as Barry's transgressions continued to checker his record well into the 21st century.

The third of 10 children in a family of sharecroppers, Barry was born on March 6, 1936 in Itta Benna, Mississippi. After his father died when Barry was four years old, his mother moved the family to Memphis and eventually married a butcher. Barry worked several jobs in his youth to support the family including selling newspapers, picking cotton, inspecting soda bottles, and bagging groceries. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1954, successfully becoming an Eagle Scout before doing so.

As the civil rights movement heated up, Barry joined the cause at a local level. He was the president of the student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at LeMoyne-Owen College, and was nearly expelled for criticizing a member of the college's board of trustees for a racially insensitive remark. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958, Barry went on to earn a master's degree in the subject at Fisk University two years later.

Since there was no NAACP chapter at this school, Barry formed one. He became a more noticeable civil rights figure, helping to organize lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville and participating in voter registration drives in several Southern states. He continued to pursue his studies, working for a year as a teaching assistant at the University of Kansas before transferring to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. There, he founded a newspaper on civil rights issues entitled the Knoxville Crusader and learned that he was barred from tutoring white students.

This discrimination likely influenced the decision which would prove to be a major turning point in Barry's life. Although he was only a few credits short from receiving a doctorate in chemistry, Barry quit his studies. He had been part of a group of black student leaders who met to form what would become the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1965, Barry moved to Washington, D.C. to begin full-time work as the organization's first national chairman.

By the time of Barry's arrival, "white flight" to the suburbs had transformed the city to one with a majority black population. Despite this demographic shift, whites continued to dominate city positions. This authority was rather restricted, however, given that the status of the city gave its residents rather limited representation. The District of Columbia had not even been allowed to vote in presidential elections prior to the 1964 election. It would not receive its own school board until 1968, and its representation in Congress was limited to a nonvoting delegate in the House of Representatives, a position not created until 1970.

"Home rule" for residents of Washington, D.C. became a major part of Barry's civil rights efforts in the capital. He organized the Free D.C. Movement and frequently wore a dashiki during his speeches. In January of 1966, he organized a one-day boycott of the city's transit system to protest a proposed fare hike. In 1967, he was successful in winning millions of dollars in federal grants to support jobs programs for poor blacks in the city. Two years later, he resigned from SNCC to turn his attention to this issue, founding an organization called Pride Inc. to find work for inner city youth.

Barry was elected to a string of municipal entities in the early 1970s, starting in February of 1970. He earned a spot on the Model Police Precinct, a board set up to improve relations between the police department and the people of Washington, D.C. He resigned a year later to run for the city's school board, defeating chairwoman Anita F. Allen for an at-large seat. He served until 1974, when he was elected to the City Council. At this point, he resigned from Pride Inc. to begin a full-time government career.

The City Council itself was a creation of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973. Though a mayor-commissioner and nine councilors had been responsible for managing the city since 1967, these positions were appointed by the President. The new legislation allowed the city to elect its own mayor and City Council in 1974, but Congress still had overarching authority in the district. Its members reviewed all of the Council's decisions, reserving the right to veto them, and retained the ability to set the city's budget and taxes.

In his first term, Barry worked to get a pay raise for the D.C. Metro Police and was instrumental in defeating a 1 percent gross receipts tax on city business. He was also an early supporter of gay and lesbian rights. Having built a base of support among numerous different groups and interests, he easily won re-election in 1976.

A year later, Barry was nearly killed in an incident that would help bolster his respect among the city's residents. On March 9, 1977, a dozen members of the Hanafi Muslims (a breakaway entity from the militant black group Nation of Islam) took almost 150 people hostage when they seized three buildings in the nation's capital. The group took over a Muslim religious center, the headquarters of a Jewish organization, and the District Building. They demanded that seven men convicted of murdering seven relatives of siege leader Hamaas Abdul Khaalis be presented for judgment before the Hanafi group. The hostage takers also demanded the destruction of all copies of "Mohammed, Messenger of God," a movie they considered sacrilegious to Islam.

Barry was on the fifth floor of the District Building, which functioned as the District of Columbia's city hall, when the gunmen took over the building. He heard two shots, which killed a radio journalist named Maurice Williams and injured a security guard who later died in the hospital of a heart attack. There was a third blast, and Barry realized he had been hit in the chest. One witness suggested that Barry had been a target; he said that when one gunman learned that he had shot Barry, he commented, "Oh good, we did get who we wanted to get."

Barry stumbled into the City Council chambers, where he was assisted by other people who had taken shelter in the room. He was later evacuated by firefighters who used an extension ladder to take him out through the window. Doctors found that a shotgun pellet had lodged less than an inch from Barry's heart, presumably after losing some of its speed in a ricochet. The slug was surgically removed, and Barry returned to work a week later.

When Barry ran for mayor in 1978, he received support from a variety of sources including the police, firefighters, young white professionals, and retirees. He was an early supporter of gay rights, working to prevent discrimination in housing and hiring, and he won acclaim among Hispanic voters by advocating for bilingual and adult education. The editorial board of the Washington Post named him as their choice for mayor. Though he won only 35 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, it was enough to defeat City Council chairman Sterling Tucker and Walter E. Washington, the city's first elected mayor. In the strongly Democratic city, Barry easily won the general election by defeating Arthur A. Fletcher, a Republican who had served in both the Nixon and Ford Administrations.

Barry took the oath of office on January 2, 1979, in a strongly symbolic ceremony. He was sworn in by Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice appointed to the Supreme Court. The Post would describe Barry as a "national symbol for self-governance for urban blacks," noting that he secured jobs for black citizens in middle and upper level positions that had been traditionally dominated by whites. He also appointed a number of women to these positions.

Though there were certain racial issues in the District of Columbia—a 1991 study reported that 42 percent of the city's black men between the ages of 18 and 35 were in jail, on probation or parole, or wanted by the police—the city was burdened by numerous other problems as well. Washington, D.C. had little in the way of tax base to rely on. There were few heavy industries, most government employees commuted from suburbs in Maryland or Virginia, and many of the federal buildings and other structures were tax-exempt. Unlike urban areas elsewhere in the United States, the city could not rely on contributions from a state for assistance. The fire department was so strapped that it could only respond to one two-alarm call at a time.

In his first term, Barry completed an audit of the city's budget and trimmed the payroll by 10 percent. Most of the cuts were through attrition, but there were also deep cuts to the city's police force; about 1,500 people working for the D.C. Metro Police lost their jobs.

Barry led an effort to encourage hotel and business development in the downtown area, personally working with developers to help get their building permits approved. The mayor also strove to help the populace as a whole, championing programs that provided summer jobs to the city's youth, helped middle class families purchase a home, and offered food assistance to seniors.

Although Barry could point to some successes in his first term, other problems worsened or remained unresolved. Drug use, homelessness, and unemployment were on the rise. The crime rate increased, and critics pointed to Barry's gutting of the police department as the cause of the problem. In advance of the 1982 election, Barry abandoned the fiscal restraint he had shown in his first term and poured more money into public programs, including $180 million for elderly assistance and job programs. He easily won the Democratic primary and general election, and these victories were repeated in 1986. Though he won more support among the city's more affluent districts in the 1978 election, this trend reversed itself in subsequent contests as he was lionized among poorer voters.

In his second and third terms, Barry was heavily criticized as he seemingly abandoned his earlier commitment to financial responsibility. A 1990 report noted that one out of every 13 citizens in the District of Columbia was employed by the city, and enemies charged that the mayor awarded jobs based on patronage rather than skill. Carl T. Rowan, Jr., a former FBI agent, complained eight years later that the D.C. bureaucracy was "a source of jobs for people whose main qualification was their eligibility to vote for Barry." When Barry's second wife, Mary Treadwell, was sent to prison for embezzling from Pride Inc., he secured her a city job when she was freed.

Over the course of these three terms, 11 city officials appointed by Barry would be involved in scandals. Ivanhoe Donaldson, a former deputy mayor, was convicted in December of 1985 of embezzling $190,000 in city funds during Barry's first and second terms.

When Barry traveled to California to attend the 1987 Super Bowl, he was heavily criticized for not returning to the District of Columbia to oversee emergency management after the city was pounded by two blizzards in a row. These junkets were not uncommon; he met with heads of state in Africa in his first term, was a regular presence at prize fights in Las Vegas, and led a delegation to the Virgin Islands in 1988. Many questioned why Barry was heading to the Caribbean to assist the local government with with overhauling their personnel system, pointing out that Washington, D.C.'s swollen payroll and debt hardly made it a model for this reform.

There were also persistent rumors that the mayor was a philanderer and drug user. The Post said that attractive women were "omnipresent" in Barry's company, and he had been married three times and divorced twice by his third term (he would ultimately be married four times). When he suffered chest pains in September of 1983, he blamed it on a hiatal hernia; a physician not associated his his opinion opined that he had suffered a drug overdose, although this report would not be made public for another six years. A similar incident occurred in January of 1987. A federal grand jury called Barry to testify in January of 1984 during an investigation into the alleged sale of cocaine to the mayor and other D.C. officials. Barry was also in a number of accidents with his municipal vehicle and was rumored to have taken cocaine at a lavish "100 days in office" party, sexually harassed a model, visited a topless club where cocaine was being sold.

The drug rumors would gain steam later in Barry's third term. In June of 1987, he publicly denied a television news report alleging that he used cocaine with a former city employee. An attempted sting operation to purchase drugs from a former city employee named Charles Lewis at a hotel room in December of 1988 was called off when police learned that Barry was present; trace of cocaine were later found in the room. A week later, U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens announced that the incident would be investigated further. Barry apologized for his "bad judgment" in visiting Lewis, but insisted that he had not taken drugs. In January of 1989, Lewis also claimed that he had never used drugs with the mayor.

Lewis changed his story later in the year. In April, he was convicted of four counts of drug possession in the Virgin Islands; a month later, he was indicted on 16 counts of drug possession and perjury in the United States. He accepted a plea bargain in November, pleading to two counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and claiming that he had purchased crack cocaine for Barry in 1988 and used drugs with the mayor on the Virgin Islands trip.

The event which would offer undeniable proof of Barry's drug use had its roots in 1985, when Barry met an unemployed model named Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore. She would later claim that they engaged in a two-year affair. Moore was also the beneficiary of $180,000 in city funds over the course of three years, with the money going toward an "image consciousness" campaign aimed at city youth.

On January 18, 1990, Moore invited Barry to visit her at the Vista International Hotel in the northwestern part of the city. Unbeknownst to Barry, Moore was collaborating with the FBI and a surveillance camera was hidden in the room. The tape captured the mayor fondling Moore's breast and leg and inquiring about drugs. She provided him with a crack pipe, and Barry took two deep drags. FBI agents and D.C. police officers stormed the room, placing Barry under arrest.

"Bitch set me up," Barry grumbled as he was placed in custody. "I shouldn't have come up here. Goddamn bitch."

The FBI surveillance footage showing Barry smoking crack cocaine (Source)

The arrest occurred just three days before an event where Barry was scheduled to announce that he would be running for a fourth term as mayor. Some of his advisers had privately suggested to him that he would be better off if he quietly left politics and accepted a university teaching job. He faced more of an uphill battle, due to his past controversies and the possibility that he would face a more powerful challenger. There were rumors that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who had recently moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C., would run for mayor; polls showed that he would easily defeat Barry in a mayoral race. 

Barry had been criticized for his remarks in a Los Angeles Times article, published on January 7, in which he was reported as saying, "Jesse don't wanna run nothing but his mouth. Besides, he'd be the laughingstock of America. He'd be run outta town if he ran against me." The article also said that Barry had boasted of his sexual prowess, threatened to punitive action against Jewish constituents who did not support him, and led schoolchildren in anti-drug pledges while denouncing rumors of his drug use as a "racist conspiracy."

There were suspicions that the government was using "selective prosecution" to target black leaders, an argument that gained a good deal of traction among Barry's supporters. They pointed out how the popular Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell had been expelled from the House of Representatives in 1967 for contempt of court, even though a House committee recommended that he be allowed to take his seat. "If they had accused Barry of stealing millions, creating a slush fund, awarding corrupt contracts, that would be one thing," said Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP. "But a personal habit that is bad, dangerous, lethal, that makes him a bad role model? There are 4 million people out there doing it. If there are 4 million, why did they pick out one and stick on his case for eight years?"

Barry's critics accused his supporters of trying to whitewash the crime. Some said that since prosecutors lacked the resources to go after every single offender, it made sense to arrest people whose behavior had compromised a position of public trust. Stephens said Barry's behavior was particularly egregious because he had been held up as a role model for black youth. In a column entitled "Don't Judge Black Politicians by Marion Barry," Mona Charen said there was no indication of racism or selective prosecution in Barry's case, since most of the politicians who had been ousted in recent years had been white. She denounced Barry as a hypocrite, adulterer, and lousy mayor who would be judged on these qualities rather than his race. "Most blacks do not use drugs, do not commit crimes, and do not philander," Charen concluded. "They work hard, pay taxes, and wash the car on weekends. It is no reflection on them that the mayor of Washington self-destructed. And it is no reflection on them that febrile leaders like Ben Hooks imply otherwise."

Three days after his arrest, Barry admitted that he had been wrestling with an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. He spent seven weeks at rehab in Florida and South Carolina before returning to Washington, D.C. During the jury selection for his June trial, he announced that he would not seek re-election. Sharon Pratt Kelly, who was working as vice president of public policy for the D.C. utility PEPCO and had been an active member of the Democratic National Committee, was later elected to succeed him.

Barry faced 12 drug possession charges, with one stemming from the hotel sting and the remainder from past instances in which witnesses said he had used cocaine. He had also been charged with three felony counts of perjury, which charged that he had given false testimony before the federal grand jury.

The trial lasted for two months. Lewis, who had started cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence, claimed that he and Barry had used cocaine as far back as the 1986 trip to the Virgin Islands. Moore said she had agreed to help in the sting operation against Barry after a religious conversion and because she was worried about the mayor's health. The defense sought to discredit Moore as an unreliable crack cocaine addict, though they also argued that Barry's actions on the tape suggested that he had gone to the hotel in search of sex rather than drugs. Moore admitted that she had lied to a federal grand jury, since she had told the jurors—and the agents setting up the sting—that she had last taken cocaine in April of 1989; in fact, she had taken it in early January, even as she prepared for the sting.

In one dramatic moment on June 28, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan arrived at the court with about a dozen followers. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, declaring that their presence would prove disruptive to the trial and intimidating to the jury, declared Farrakhan to be persona non grata in the courtroom. Farrakhan complained that Barry's trial "demonstrates the wickedness of the United States government and the lengths to which this government will go when it targets a black leader to be discredited."

In their closing arguments, prosecutors said it was ludicrous to claim that Barry was the victim in a racist conspiracy. Ten witnesses had attested to the mayor's cocaine use, they said, and the only conspiracy was one of "silence and deceit" to ignore or tacitly accept his behavior. "Mr. Barry is asking you to shut your eyes, cover your ears, to close your mind," said U.S. Attorney Richard Roberts. "Really, he's asking you to insult your intelligence by forgetting the facts."

The defense admitted that Barry used cocaine occasionally, but denied that he used the drug as frequently as the prosecution alleged. If that were true, they contended, he could have easily been arrested much earlier in a more conventional method than a sting operation. In an autobiography published shortly before his death, Barry offered a similar opinion. "They desperately tried to paint my cocaine use into something much more than it ever was," he said. "I had never used cocaine as much as they tried to say I had."

The jury, which included 10 black members and two white members, mulled over the charges for eight days. Five days into these deliberations, Barry announced that he would run an independent campaign for an at-large position on the City Council.

On August 10, the jury found Barry guilty of one count of drug possession. Surprisingly, it was not related to the January sting where his drug use had been caught on camera; in fact, the jury had acquitted him on that charge. Rather, the jurors agreed that the prosecution had proved that Barry used cocaine with Alabama businesswoman and Democratic political consultant Doris Crenshaw at the Mayflower Hotel in November of 1989. The jury could not reach a verdict on the remaining 10 drug charges or perjury charges, leading to a mistrial on those counts. It was a small victory for Barry; if he had been found guilty of perjury, the felony conviction would have barred him from holding any elected office.

Before his sentencing, Barry acknowledged that he was a drug addict and said he was "deeply sorry for his actions." He asked for a light sentence of probation or community service. The prosecution sought the maximum punishment of one year in prison, saying Barry was not sorry for his actions but rather upset that he had been caught. Stephens said that Barry had admitted to prosecutors that he used cocaine on at least a dozen occasions. Prosecutors also argued that he had "seriously impugned the integrity" of the mayor's office, especially since he had urged the city's youth to not use drugs.

On October 26, Barry was sentenced to six months in federal prison and one year of probation. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine as well as the cost of his incarceration, with additional drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Jackson told Barry that he had "given aid, comfort, and encouragement to the drug culture" and set a bad example for the citizens of Washington, D.C. Although Barry told the judge that he was "truly remorseful," he continued to make claims of racial prejudice when talking to the press. "I understand that there are different standards for different people, and that's the American injustice system," he said after his sentencing.

In November, Barry experienced his first electoral loss when he finished third in the City Council race with only 20 percent of the vote. After his appeals were exhausted, he began his sentence at a minimum security facility in Virginia in October of 1991. He again claimed to be the victim of a "racist plot," accusing prosecutors of pursuing him while ignoring the malfeasance of white government officials. Barry was required to spend the entire six-month period behind bars, since sentences of under a year were not eligible for early release. Two months into his sentence, he was transferred to a medium security penitentiary in Pennsylvania after another inmate reported seeing a female visitor giving Barry fellatio in the prison's family reception room.

The drug conviction failed to put a dent in Barry's popularity. When he was released in April 1992, he was chauffeured home in a limousine and accompanied by six busloads of supporters. He immediately sought a Council seat to represent Ward 8, the poorest district in Washington, D.C. and the only one he had carried in the 1990 race. He won the Democratic primary with three times as many votes as incumbent Wilhelmina Rolark and was successful in the general election as well.

In May of 1994, Barry announced that he would seek a fourth term as mayor. "I'm in recovery and so is my city," he declared. He faced a three-way contest in the Democratic primary. Kelly had tried to reduce the city's debt, lobby the federal government for a higher budget, and reign in bureaucracy by eliminating about 6,000 jobs; she was not about to give up the office without an attempt at re-election. Councilor John Ray also entered the primary. Barry managed to defeat both of his opponents, earning 47 percent in the vote. Ray earned 37 percent of the vote, Kelly only 13 percent.

While the Democratic primary win typically guaranteed a victory in the general election in D.C., the Republicans had plenty of past scandals to use against Barry. The GOP chose Carol Schwartz, a city councilor who had unsuccessfully contested Barry in the 1986 election, for their candidate. Schwartz had run a hard campaign against Barry in that year, accusing him of incompetence and corruption during his first two terms; in the 1994 election, she could criticize him for his drug conviction as well. She suggested that Barry's cocaine use had played a part in the District of Columbia's increasing homicide rate.

Schwartz managed to keep the general election from becoming a runaway, but she only managed to take 42 percent of the vote. Barry came away with 56 percent. Despite the many charges of mismanagement and the infamous video of his drug use and arrest, he had been elected to a fourth term.

Washington, D.C. continued to be a city beset by serious problems. Several city agencies had been placed into receivership due to their appalling conditions. One judge described the conditions in a home for juvenile delinquents as "unacceptable for a civilized country." In a nursing home run by the city, some patients were found to have bedsores so severe that limbs needed to be amputated. The high rates of murder, high school dropouts, and infant mortality had not dropped significantly since Barry's first term, and the city was also dealing with high levels of crack cocaine addiction and AIDS infections.

Upon taking office in 1995, Barry appealed to Congress for a bailout to help shore up the city's finances and remedy its widespread problems. Instead, Congress established a financial control board to take over budgetary management from the local government amid allegations of extensive mismanagement and graft. Barry would feud with the board for the remainder of his term, decrying the loss of local level management as a "rape of democracy." He accused Congress, which had swung to the control of the Republican Party after the 1994 election, of trying to limit the home rule allowances which had been won two decades before.

In July of 1997, Congress passed a reform act which stripped Barry of much of his remaining power. Oversight of nine major departments was transferred to the financial control board, leaving only the parks and libraries under Barry's watch. He was essentially a mayor in name only. Barry announced in May of 1998 that he would not seek a fifth term, and he left office in January of 1999.

Barry left a polarizing legacy. He pointed to the revitalization of downtown areas as his signature achievement, including a decision to locate government offices in an area hard-hit by the 1968 race riots to help turn the neighborhood around. Supporters saw him as someone who had risen to success on his own initiative, who was committed to helping the city's youth and poor. Many thought that the frequent criticism directed at the mayor was part of a widespread effort to discredit him and roll back the power achieved by black residents of the District of Columbia. Critics said Barry had done more to harm the city then help it through persistent graft, moral bankruptcy, poor fiscal management, and his inability to stem crime or improve the schools.

Although Barry's fourth term as mayor would be his last, he was not out of politics for good. After working for a few years as an investment banker, he announced that he would run for City Council in March of 2002. However, he abandoned the bid after police found traces of cocaine and marijuana in his illegally parked car. Barry said he had been framed, and no charges were filed. Two years later, he was again elected to the Council from Ward 8. He would hold the position until his death.

A number of troubles continued to plague Barry in his later years. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of assault after a female janitor at the Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport accused him of exposing himself to her in an airport bathroom in 2000. Barry pleaded guilty to the charge and received a sentence of community service, and was later ordered to pay $35,000 when the woman filed a lawsuit against him.

At a court-ordered screening in 2005, Barry tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. Marion Christopher Barry, his son by his third wife Effi Barry, was convicted of drug possession six years later and received a suspended sentence. Polly Harris, Effi's mother, publicly blamed Barry for his son's drug use.

An audit discovered that Barry had failed to file federal or local income taxes for 1999, 2000, or 2004. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in October of 2005, and was sentenced to three years' probation in March of 2006. The punishment came without a fine, allowing Barry to start paying back $195,000 in missed federal taxes and $54,000 in D.C. taxes plus penalties. When he also failed to file his taxes in 2005 and 2007, Barry reached an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to settle the accounts; he blamed poor health for missing the deadlines.

Even in the midst of these incidents, Barry continued to enjoy widespread support. In 2005, he joined local businesses and volunteers in starting a program to distribute 2,000 turkeys for the holidays. A year later, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators awarded him the Nation Builder Award, recognizing his work as a civil rights activist and politician.

However, Barry would also face some embarrassments in his later years on the City Council. He was arrested in July of 2009 after he was accused of stalking Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, who was described as an occasional girlfriend. Though the charges were dropped, Barry was censured, stripped of a committee chairmanship, and removed from another committee a year later after councilors learned that he had awarded $15,000 to Watts-Brighthaupt as a "personal service" contract. Since Watts-Brighthaupt owed him money, she had simply repaid him from the same funds which Barry had assigned in his capacity as a councilor. A similar incident occurred in September of 2013, when Barry was found to have accepted cash payments from city contractors; he was again censured and stripped of a chairmanship.

Like his first brush with the law, Barry's final controversy involved parking tickets. He was involved in a car accident in August of 2014 after driving on the wrong side of the road. After this smash-up, it was revealed that he had $2,800 in unpaid moving violation fines and parking violations. He promptly paid the outstanding sum to the city.

In June of 2014, Barry published an autobiography entitled "Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr." He said that there were many who "judge me but don't really know me," arguing that he had completed a number of professional accomplishments in his life. "I always felt like I was two different people in politics; one as a personally religious man who was quiet with a lot of doubts and frustrations; and the other as the politician who had to be brave and courageous, while representing the desires of the people," he wrote. "I seemed to be brave enough to take on anything for the people. But deep down inside, I hurt like anybody else."

By this point, Barry had been suffering from a number of health problems. He had survived a bout with prostate cancer, received a kidney transplant in 2009, and suffered from diabetes. On November 23, 2014, he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Sources: Council of the District of Columbia, "Black Muslims Terrorize U.S. Capital; Reporter Killed, Many Hostages Held" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Mar. 9 1977, "Bullet Stopped Short of Heart" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Mar. 10 1977, "Tale of Hanafi Moslem Terror is Related" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Mar. 13 1977, "D.C. Coalition Leads 'Back to Cities' Move" in the Milwaukee Journal on Dec. 6 1978, "D.C. Mayor Denies Drug Involvement" in the Pittsburgh Press on Dec. 28 1988, "Marion Barry Keeps D.C. Guessing" in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 7 1990, "Marion Barry Plans to Enter Race in Full Stride: 'I'll Win'" in the Free Lance-Star on Jan. 16 1990, "D.C. Mayor Arrested in Drug 'Sting,' Agents Say" in the Ocala Star-Banner on Jan. 19 1990, "Events in Marion Barry's Career" in the Star-News on Jan. 20 1990, "Don't Judge Black Politicians by Marion Barry" in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Feb. 5 1990, "Blacks Claim Barry Singled Out" in the Spokesman-Review on Jun. 9 1990, "Jurors View Videotape of Barry Drug Arrest" in the Washington Post on Jun. 29 1990, "Pained and Shamed, Barry Says" in the Pittsburgh Press on Aug. 3 1990, "Mayor Barry Guilty of Cocaine Charge" in the New Straits Times on Aug. 12 1990, "Marion Barry Seeks Probation" in the Argus-Press on Oct. 26 1990, "Barry Gets 6-Month Prison Term for Cocaine Possession" in the Boca Raton News on Oct. 27 1990, "Marion Barry Begins 6-Month Prison Term" in the News-Journal on Oct. 26 1991, "Ex-Mayor Marion Barry Trying to Make a Comeback" in the Star-News on May 22 1994, "Barry's Tenure Was a Roller Coaster Ride" in the Washington Post on May 22 1998, "Schwartz Launches Third Bid for Mayor" in the Washington Post on June 18 1998, "Tax Charges Net Marion Barry 3 Years' Probation" in the Free Lance-Star on Mar. 10 2006, "Some Things You Never Forget" in the Washington Post on Mar. 12 2007, "Barry Again Fails to File Tax Forms" in the Washington Post on Jan. 29 2009, "From the Archives: The Charmed Life of Marion Barry" in the Washingtonian on Feb. 19 2014, "Marion Barry Dies at 78" in the Washington Post on Nov. 23 2014, "Marion Barry, Washington's 'Mayor For Life,' Even After Prison, Dies at 78" in the New York Times on Nov. 23 2014, Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. by Marion Barry Jr., Democratic Destiny and the District of Columbia: Federal Politics and Public Policy by Ronald Walters and Toni-Michelle C. Travis, African-Americans and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia by Delores D. Jones-Brown and Beverly D. Frazier and Marvie Brooks