Marion Barry, Councilmember Ward 8 During an interview with LL
Marion Barry, Councilmember Ward 8 During an interview with LL

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LL spoke this evening with Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, the 40-year-old woman whom Marion Barry has been charged with stalking.

She does not support the charge: “He does not stalk,” she says. “He does what I allow him to do.”

Watts-Brighthaupt says she spent some six months in a relationship with Barry, from August, when she traveled with him to the Democratic National Convention, to February, when the romance ended for reasons she declined to discuss.

But the roots of what happened Saturday night, Watts-Brighthaupt says, go back to last Tuesday, when several councilmembers hosted a Wilson Building screening of CNN’s Black in America documentary. She attended with her ex-husband, Delonta Brighthaupt, and their children. But Barry, when he learned less than an hour beforehand that Brighthaupt would be in attendance, drafted a memo asking that he be banned from the building. He was kicked out of the event. According to Watts-Brighthaupt, “It was embarrassing.”

The incident upset her, and she says she planned to spend time with Barry yesterday in hopes of getting an apology and moving past the situation. The plan was, she says, to attend a party in Rehoboth Beach, Del.; they had stopped for a late lunch in Annapolis, she says, when she realized a reconciliation wasn’t going to be possible. “We weren’t settling anything; we were going back and forth,” she says. “It was going to be a horrible time.”

So she decided to drive them both back to Washington. Barry had left his car at Watts-Brighthaupt’s Anacostia home, so they returned there shortly after 8 p.m. But there was a problem, she says—-her ex-husband was there, watching the family pets. She didn’t want Barry and Brighthaupt to encounter each other, so she dropped Barry off there and headed for Anacostia Park to watch the fireworks that were about to begin.

Barry, apparently, didn’t leave—-after she left, he entered her house and, finding no one, called Watts-Brighthaupt from her porch and asked her to come back, saying her ex-husband wasn’t there. Brighthaupt, as it turns out, had left the house to run an errand and was around the corner. His ex-wife still didn’t want the two to meet, but she also didn’t want Barry going back inside her house, so she called Brighthaupt, who went home and, barely speaking to Barry, locked the door and left. He then walked to a nearby carryout to meet his ex-wife; they planned to go watch the fireworks in the park, hoping Barry would be gone by the time they returned.

Barry, though, had already left in his BMW. By chance, he stopped at the same traffic light as Watts-Brighthaupt and her ex-husband. He noticed them and began to follow them west on Good Hope Road SE. When they passed Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and dipped under I-295 to enter the park, Barry started flashing his high beams and attempting to pull alongside them on the left. “He swerves a little, and he’s about to hit my truck,” she says. That’s when the Park Police officer pulled Barry over; Watts-Brighthaupt says she did nothing to attract his attention.

When the cop got out of his cruiser, Watts-Brighthaupt got out of her vehicle, as well, she says, to tell the cop, “He’s following me, make sure that he gets home.” The cop ordered her to get back in her car. After speaking to Barry, the cop came back and asked her if she had been in a relationship with Barry and if her ex-husband, riding shotgun, had ever threatened Barry.

She answered yes to the first query, she says, and no to the second, adding, “I have proof.”

The officer then went back to speak to Barry again; at this point, he’s arrested, she says: “I don’t know what Marion said, but next thing he’s arrested….Whatever was said by him was the reason he was arrested.”

At no point, says Watts-Brighthaupt, did she accuse Barry of stalking her. “I have no intention to press charges,” she says.

LL pressed her on Barry’s behavior: “There’s a lot of proof showing he tries to keep my attention quite a bit,” she says, “but I allow it.” LL asked if he’ll stop doing things if she asks: “He doesn’t, but I don’t complain. I just teach him a lesson.”

As far as lessons go, Watts-Brighthaupt is getting a lesson in Barry’s PR strategy, which seems to be aimed at impeaching her reputation. At a press conference today, spokesperson Natalie Williams referred to Watts-Brighthaupt’s “instability”—-including health and employment problems—-and implied that she had asked for financial help, which Barry had oh-so-generously supplied. Barry, she said, felt “betrayed.”

Watts-Brighthaupt says she has cancer, and that she hasn’t held steady work in two years, but that she has held consulting contracts since. “I’m not destitute,” she says. “I never, ever, ever asked Marion for a goddamn thing,” she says. “Anything he gave me was of his own free will.” That included, she says, a September trip to Jamaica.

As for the supposed financial support: “If we were dating, whose business is it that there were gifts?” she asks. “You call that ‘financial support’? I call ‘financial support’ paying my condo bill.” Barry, she says, would come over, “look through my stuff and take some of my bills….He would take care of it on his own.”

Watts-Brighthaupt says she just wants Barry to atone for humiliating her and her ex-husband at the Wilson Building last week—-possibly, by making a statement clearing him of any wrongdoing. “My husband had never, ever threatened Marion Barry,” she says. “We just wanted him to clear what he said three days ago.” She says that since the arrest, she hasn’t heard from Barry, his lawyer, or anyone else regarding the arrest. If she doesn’t hear something soon, Watts-Brighthaupt says, “too much would come out that he doesn’t want.”

She says there’s no personal animus involved here, even what Williams said today: “I’m not mad at him,” she says. “I know how he works.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery