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In the annals of D.C. political history, the name Hassan H. Mohammadi has been all but forgotten—-relegated to the depths of LexisNexis and a couple of mentions in Dream City, that indispensible chronicle of ’80s Washington.
But 20 years ago, Mohammadi was the talk of the town—-a friend of Marion Barry‘s throughout the mayor-for-life’s ’80s party heyday, he was first among a cadre of witnesses to testify in federal court that he supplied Barry with drugs, watched him use them, and often used them along with him.
Now, two decades later, Mohammadi’s name is popping up again—-on checks recently cut to District candidates.
The Fenty 2010 campaign reported accepting three checks earlier this month totaling $6,000 connected to Mohammadi. Jeff Smith, a Democrat challenging incumbent Jim Graham for the Ward 1 council seat, received $1,000 from Mohammadi and a member of his family.
Mohammadi, now 55, was described in a 1989 Washington Post story as being part of a “new circle of friends and advisers to whom Barry has turned for counsel, support and what the mayor calls ‘depressurizing.'”
Months later, after Barry was arrested for using crack cocaine in the infamous Vista Hotel bust, it became clear just what “depressurizing” meant, and what Mohammadi did to facilitate it. During Barry’s trial in the hot summer of 1990, Mohammadi testified that he gave Barry cocaine “about 30 times, maybe more,” dating back to 1985, when he opened his Pardis Cafe in Georgetown. In 1987, he told jurors, he delivered two grams of coke straight to Barry’s office in the District Building. He also testified that he also gave opium to the mayor.
At Barry’s trial, Mohammadi actually demonstrated how Barry would do coke—-cut into lines with a credit card and snorted through a rolled-up dollar bill. He also showed the method for smoking opium—-heating it on the back of a spoon, sucking the vapor through a straw.
Mohammadi’s favors to Barry—-whom he unfailingly referred to as “Mr. Mayor”—-didn’t end with his drug supply. The Post reported that Barry would stay as many as three nights a week at Mohammadi’s apartment, often showing up late at night. During a 1987 trip to the Bahamas, Mohammadi testified, Barry insisted that Mohammadi pay for a hotel room for one of Barry’s girlfriends. He also told jurors that, at a Bahamian casino, he gave Barry $3,000 in chips that were never paid back.
His labors on behalf of Barry were not without reward: A firm connected to Mohammadi was awarded a $195,000 lottery marketing contract—-a deal that drew a federal probe. The Post also reported that Barry got a relative of Mohammadi’s a city job. And in exchange for his testimony, Mohammadi did only three months in jail on drug charges, and a federal judge agreed not to deport the Iranian national.
Until he flipped after the Vista bust, “I was a true friend to Mr. Mayor,” he testified, according to the Washington Post. “I was always there for Mr. Mayor.”
His interest in the current Mr. Mayor is less clear.
A Fenty campaign rep contacted by LL was unaware of Mohammadi’s infamy. Smith, reached by LL earlier this week, said, “I don’t know him personally.” He later reported that Mohammadi’s contributions were solicited by a member of his campaign committee, one he declined to name citing his opponent’s “reprisatory” ways.
Smith said that, to his knowledge, Mohammadi is a caterer. Mohammadi reported to the Fenty campaign that he is owner of Zodiac Restaurant & Lounge, located in a Dover, Del., Holiday Inn. He has kept a low profile professionally and politically since the Barry trial, though his wife gave $2,000 to mayoral candidate Linda Cropp in 2006.
This much is clear: The political contributions could have gone a long way toward covering an outstanding debt Mohammadi owes.
In 2007, Mohammadi was sued over a debt related to Filibuster’s Bar and Grill, a now-defunct Thomas Circle watering hole he co-owned. In 2008, a judge found that he owed more than $8,200 to Jordan Kitt’s Music, a College Park-based piano retailer.
LL earlier this week reached Thomas Mauro, lawyer for Jordan Kitt’s, who says that his client yet to collect. He was very interested to hear about Mohammadi’s recent generosity.
On Tuesday, LL paid a visit to Mohammadi’s Woodley Park townhome (assessed at $1.4 million, incidentally). He wasn’t home but LL left a card with a family member; he has not called.
LL did reach Mohammadi’s lawyer this afternoon. Why does his client have money to give to politicians but not to pay his piano bill? he asked. “I have no information on that,” the lawyer said.
File photo of 1990 Barry arraignment by Darrow Montgomery