Rejecting pleas for leniency, a federal judge has sentenced Washington Mayor Marion Barry to six months in jail and fined him $5,000 for a misdemeanor conviction of cocaine possession. The mayor's "breach of public trust alone warrants an enhanced sentence," U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said Friday.
"Rumors of the defendant's drug use . . . gave aid, comfort and encouragement to the drug culture.
"Having failed as the good example he might have been, the defendant must now become an example of another kind."
Barry will not have to go to jail until his appeals are exhausted.
"I should have been shocked and stunned," Barry later told reporters. "But I'm not. I understand that there are different sets of standards for different people, and that's the American injustice system."
Barry's lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, had argued during the trial that Barry had been singled out for prosecution because he is a well-known black official. After the sentencing, Mundy said the judge had made the mayor "a whipping boy for all the ills that beset the District of Columbia."
Barry's lawyer noted that other prominent Washington defendants, ranging from Iran-contra figures to former White House aide Michael Deaver, had been convicted of a felony, lying under oath about his lobbying
activities, and received suspended sentences rather than prison time.
Barry was also ordered to reimburse the federal government for the cost of his incarceration. The mayor's imprisonment would cost $5,167 if, as is likely, he is sent to a minimum-security prison, according to Bureau of Prison figures.
Some lawyers say Barry should be treated no differently from other first-time drug offenders, who normally would be placed on probation for a misdemeanor drug conviction.
But former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova noted that Barry "isn't like any other first-time drug offender. He was the commander-in-chief of the Metropolitan Police Department at the time it was conducting its greatest war on drugs."
Barry's third term as mayor expires in January. He is not seeking re-election but is running for an at-large seat on the city council. The jail sentence does not prevent him from finishing his term or remaining on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The judge's demand for jail time angered Barry's supporters who crowded the courtroom and the hallway outside. Prosecutors had recommended the maximum penalty of one year in prison, but probation is the more common sentence for a first conviction on a single misdemeanor drug count.
Outside the courthouse, the supporters sang We Shall Overcome. Barry's lawyer promised an appeal. The mayor slipped out a side door, dodging scores of TV cameras.
The case has spurred worldwide interest ever since the mayor of the nation's capital was caught in an FBI sting on Jan. 18. Barry was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in the hotel room of a former girlfriend. The arrest climaxed years of intrigue about alleged drug use by the mayor.
After an 11-week trial, though, a jury deadlocked on a variety of felony charges against Barry and convicted him of only one misdemeanor.
The verdict was widely regarded as a victory for the mayor, one of the nation's best-known black politicians. But the jail sentence, accompanied by a $5,000 fine and a year of probation, was harsher than many expected.
The judge ordered Barry to undergo drug rehabilitation while in prison and to submit to random drug tests while on probation.
Moments before he was sentenced, Barry stood and told the judge he was "truly remorseful" for his wrongdoing. The mayor asked that his punishment be community service.
"My stomach is in knots," Barry said as he awaited the sentence. Sitting behind him were his wife and his mother.
Earlier, Barry sent a letter to the judge in which the mayor conceded for the first time that he had been "a drug addict" and asked for "leniency" in sentencing.
"When I sat in your courtroom each day, hearing things about myself that I had not wanted to face, I may have appeared to be calm and unmoved," Barry said in the letter to Judge Jackson. "But on the inside, I was suffering nearly unbearable humiliation and deepest regret."
The judge, however, was apparently unmoved. He said the mayor had "contributed to the anguish that illegal drugs have inflicted on this city."
He also charged that, during the trial, Barry had sought to "induce the jury to disregard the law and the evidence."
The case has increased the racial polarization in the District, where Barry had been probably the most popular politician to the black majority for over a decade. The sentencing came on the eve of a weekend when Ku Klux Klansmen are scheduled to march on the Capitol and thousands of counter-demonstrators are expected to turn out in protest.
_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.