Like many other first-time drug offenders to go before a federal judge for sentencing, Mayor Marion Barry faces the prospect this week of being ordered behind bars for possessing crack cocaine.
Even though he was convicted of only a misdemeanor, figures compiled by the U.S. Sentencing Commission show that the mayor has a good chance of being ordered to serve time.The study showed that 39.5 percent of 370 defendants convicted in federal courts for the first time of simple drug possession between Nov. 1, 1987, and March 1, 1989, were imprisoned.
Another 3.8 percent were ordered to serve weekends in local jails while undergoing drug treatment. Judges placed 52.2 percent on probation and the rest were not sanctioned at all.
Federal prosecutors who obtained the misdemeanor drug possession conviction against Barry last summer have not yet submitted their sentencing request to U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.
But comments that Barry's defense lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, made Friday at a hearing indicates that the probation officer who filed a pre-sentence report in the case recommended a sentence ranging between two months and eight months in prison.
The mayor was convicted in August of simple possession by a jury that acquitted him of another misdemeanor count and deadlocked on another dozen charges, including lying to a grand jury by denying under oath that he had used drugs.
Under the law, Barry faces up to a year in prison when he goes before Jackson on Friday.
Jackson is required to apply federal sentencing guidelines, which establish ranges of prison time that depend upon the severity of the crime and other circumstances, such as the degree of the defendant's participation.
Probation officer Arthur Carrington was assigned to conduct the pre-sentence investigation and submit a report to Jackson with a calculation of what prison term, if any, the guidelines call for. The judge could disagree with Carrington's calculation of the sentencing range.
Mundy objected to language stating that the mayor had failed to accept responsibility for his criminal behavior, stating that "it would have been very perilous" for the mayor to admit drug possession when prosecutors still are continuing their investigation of the mayor.
Acceptance of responsibility would give the defendant a two-point reduction from the offense score that is calculated under the guidelines.
Mundy's comments indicate that the probation office found that Barry should not receive such credit, thereby setting the offense score at six - the base figure for possession of crack cocaine.