Marion Barry appeared in front of cameras this morning for the first time since his Saturday-night arrest, but that’s about all he did. Longtime lawyer Fred Cooke did virtually all the talking, while Barry stood behind him in a gray suit, fedora, and paisley tie, remaining mute save for an occasional whisper in Cooke’s ear.
In contrast to yesterday’s presser, where spokesperson Natalie Williams spent most of the time attacking the credibility of the alleged stalkee and glorifying Barry’s munificence, Cooke stuck mostly to the confines of the legal case against his client.
“Mr. Barry specifically and vehemently denies stalking anyone,” Cooke said. “We believe that the charge is baseless. We believe that the charge stems from a personal relationship that has gone horribly wrong in a lot of ways and has resulted in one party to that relationship striking out at Mr. Barry and repaying him for some of his kindnesses.”
OK, so maybe Cooke didn’t lay completely off the smear campaign, but he mentioned the name of the woman, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, only once, in response to a question about her name.
Instead, Cooke emphasized the possibility that this will all go away very soon: “It is our hope that a careful review of the facts and circumstances by the Office of the United States Attorney will lead that office to conclude that no charges should be formally filed or lodged against Mr. Barry,” he said, adding, “It’s clear there was no stalking, no coercion….These are all facts that make it very difficult for the prosecutors to have a successful prosecution for stalking.”
Cooke did entertain a few questions on the details of the relationship between Barry and Watts-Brighthaupt, saying the liaison “had run its course,” having lasted “at least a year, maybe 18 months” and ended “within the last month or six weeks.”
He referred to “verbal confrontations” between Barry and the woman’s ex-husband in the past—-which is what, he says, led Barry to have him banned from a Wilson Building event last Friday. “That individual had been confrontational with Mr. Barry in the past,” Cooke explained, “and Mr. Barry thought that the decorum of the event required that that sort of behavior not reoccur.”
As far as the events of Saturday, Cooke confirmed that the two planned to travel to Rehoboth Beach together, but they turned back to D.C. after having a late lunch in Annapolis. “I don’t know what caused her to charge her mind,” he said. “I know that she changed her mind.” As to what happened afterward, the few details Cooke provided seemed to be mostly consistent with the sequence of events Watts-Brighthaupt described yesterday to LL—-though Cooke insists that Barry was not following her when the arrest happened: “Mr. Barry was traveling on public streets on his way home,” he said. “He was not following anyone.” (He did contradict Williams’ assertion yesterday that Watts-Brighthaupt’s car was actually following Barry’s when they entered Anacostia Park.)
Notably, Cooke declined to criticize Park Police on Barry’s behalf, except to raise the question of what Barry could have possibly done during the traffic stop to justify a stalking charge—-one that requires establishing a pattern of behavior: “I don’t know how the officers decided that an offense happened in their presence that would allow them to arrest rather than investigate.”
Asked about the charge might affect Barry’s probation for federal tax offenses, Cooke said that given his expectation that charges would be dropped, it would have “zero effect.” A source in the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirms that in most cases, charges that are not pursued by prosecutors generally don’t affect a preexisting probation agreement.
Concluded Cooke: “This is unfortunate, but it’s not a distraction of such a proportion that would keep Mr. Barry from attention to the business of the council and the District of Columbia.”
On his way down the Wilson Building steps to the microphones, Barry’s arm was held by his spiritual adviser of late, Bishop Glen Staples of Ward 8’s Temple of Praise. Also standing behind him were chief of staff Bernadette Tolson, confidante Anthony Mohammed, Williams, and two other gentlemen.
A reporter asked Cooke why Barry couldn’t speak for himself: “Because he’s a got a lawyer who’s a pain in the butt,” he said. “It would be malpractice if I allowed him to do that.”
Video courtesy of WRC-TV