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Granted, kickbacks are bad. Steering contracts to cronies—-bad as well.
Yet another of the allegations in the just-released report by Special Counsel Robert S. Bennett builds an even more scandalous, Nixonian case against Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr. This allegation is that Barry advised a “material witness to withhold documents and information requested or subpoenaed by Special Counsel.”
Hmm, who could that “material witness” have been?
Let’s go to the report, which lays out some details on how Barry’s obstructionism unfolded.
Barry’s former girlfriend and crony Donna Watts-Brighthaupt completed a deposition with Bennett’s crew on Nov. 5 of last year. She was asked to come back a week later, on Nov. 12, and to bring along her laptop.
Barry happened to alight on her house on Nov. 11 after returning from a trip to Memphis. He came with an invitation to Watts to go to Atlanta the following day. At that point, Watts’ daughter reminded her of her depositional responsibilities, and Barry sprung into his persuasive mode, questioning why she had to go back.
According to Watts’ testimony, Barry counseled her not to turn over her hard drive or her bank statements. Such a move, he said, would be ill-advised, considering that the special counsel is not a grand jury and doesn’t deserve that level of deference.
Watts reported in her deposition how Barry put the situation to her: “You might think you don’t have anything to hide. You don’t know what they will find that will hurt you. I’m not worried about it. I’m not going to get hurt. It’s going to be you and I can’t help you.” Just to clarify: That quote is Watts recounting how Barry described to her the situation with the special counsel investigation.
On Jan. 25, she told the special counsel that Barry advised her to say “I can’t recall” if she couldn’t remember something verbatim.
If nothing else, the report’s nitty-gritty on Barry’s wise counsel to Watts reflects the continued intensity of their relationship, a bizarre one even by Barry’s standards. The relationship first came to public light after Barry was arrested on July 4 for allegedly stalking Watts. At the time, virtually all accounts of the affair referred to Watts as Barry’s “former” girlfriend.
Barry, however, is a guy who doesn’t pay much heed to “former.”
I spent a good while at Watts’ house last July, at a time when she and Barry were supposed to be history. During a two-hour chat in Watts’ kitchen, Barry left multiple messages on her home voicemail. This wasn’t the first instance of his serial calling after the stalking bust. During these calls, he made all kinds of promises, focusing particular attention on Watts’ children and their financial needs. He said he would do anything for them.
“I’m trying to help you,” Barry said in one message. “I’m trying to be in love with you.”
In another instance, Barry said: “I wouldn’t give you a nickel. Well, I’ll give you a couple nickles.”
Sometimes Barry was nice on the messages. Sometimes he was angry. It went back and forth. Watts didn’t like to even listen to Barry’s ramblings.
But as the months passed, it became all too clear that Barry wasn’t going to let up. Watts started returning Barry’s calls with one mission in mind: To get the councilmember to clear her name. Barry’s spokesperson Natalie Williams had issued statement after statement calling into question Watts’ mental state.
Watts wanted Barry to condemn those statements. Barry wanted her to condemn Washington City Paper.
“I wanted him to tell the truth about what he had Natalie Williams do. I wanted him to change that. Admit that it wasn’t true—what Natalie Williams and his lawyers said about me,” Watts says now. “He wanted me to blame you and City Paper and my ex-husband for that sensational headline. [“You Put Me Out in Denver ‘Cause I Wouldn’t Suck Your Dick”] I wanted him to right a wrong. He wanted me to validate his belief of what type of paper you were. Neither one of us were giving in.”
Watts says that she and Barry still talk. Through the fall and winter, the two continued to talk. The night Barry advised Watts to stonewall the special counsel, he slept over.
The next morning, Barry returned to the issue of the Bennett investigation with Watts. The Bennett report states: “He raised the issue again, telling Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt, ‘I would advise you to think about it, to await Scott Bolden‘s phone call, and he will give you a name of a lawyer.”
The report goes on to state:
“Later that morning, Mr. Barry attempted to reach Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt several times by phone—’bout two times on my cell and about three times on my home.’ He succeeded on one occasion. During that conversation, according to Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt, Mr. Barry told her the following: ‘He says it is in my best interest not to take my computer; I would be a fool; I am making things worse for myself; he cannot help me if I do it.”
*file photo by Darrow Montgomery.