Perhaps envisioning an unhappy end to the investigation of his wife’s alleged money-laundering activities, Mayor Marion Barry has asked D.C. Council Chairman David Clarke to introduce a novel piece of legislation. If approved, it would give Barry the power to grant reprieves and pardons for federal and local offenses committed in the District.
What Barry could have done with such power during his first administration! Jailbird beneficiaries of mayoral clemency could have included two of his former cabinet members, Ivanhoe Donaldson and Alphonse Hill; his second wife, Mary Treadwell; his sometime-girlfriend, Karen Johnson; and his Virgin Islands cocaine connection, Charles Lewis.
By a remarkable coincidence, the Virgin Islands are the very principality invoked by Bernard Demczuk, director of the mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, to explain the mayor’s rationale in asking for a privilege afforded territorial governors. “It’s consistent with what the mayor’s position of home rule has been of wanting state authorities with state responsibilities,” Demczuk says. He makes no mention of Medicaid, corrections, and other state responsibilities that the mayor tried to shove back down Congress’ throat last month.
Actually, the mayor’s request is more politics than philosophy. Barry owes his comeback at least in part to ex-convicts and to some offenders still at Lorton, who promoted his candidacy to voters in their families. Quite simply, it’s payback time, and Barry is delivering on a promise.
“He’s got a group of very aggressive ex-offenders around him who are trying to get things changed,” says one council staffer who requested anonymity.
An ex-offender himself, Barry clearly feels their pain. Cynics might see something more nefarious, even Nixonian, in mayoral pardon power that would transfer to Barry’s successor if his relationship with businessman Yong Yun lands him in serious trouble. Then again, if Cora Barry takes the fall, a pardon could prove to be the ultimate marital aid.