Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry Is Arrested in a Sting Operation for Possession of Crack Cocaine

On January 18, 1990, Barry was arrested with a former girlfriend, Hazel "Rasheeda" Moore, in a sting operation at the Vista Hotel by the FBI and D.C. Police for crack cocaine use and possession.

The incident was widely broadcast on television, showing an enraged Barry excoriating Moore, who had become an FBI informant.

Barry was charged with three felony counts of perjury, 10 counts of misdemeanor drug possession, and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to possess cocaine. The criminal trial ended in October 1990 with a conviction for only one possession incident, which had occurred in November 1989, and an acquittal on another. The jury hung on the remaining charges. Six or seven jurors (of whom two were white and the rest black) believed that the evidence against Barry was overwhelming and that he had displayed "arrogance" during the trial. Against these, five black jurors were convinced that the prosecution had falsified evidence and testimony as part of a racist conspiracy against Barry, and even disputed factual findings that had not been contested in court. After scolding the jurors for not following his instructions, the judge declared a mistrial on the remaining charges.

As a result of his arrest and the ensuing trial, Barry decided not to seek reelection as mayor. In the midst of his campaign for a city council seat, Barry was sentenced to a six-month federal prison term in October 1991.

Mr. Schiff: Hi, welcome to "FBI 100, A Closer Look." I'm Neal Schiff of the Bureau's Office of Public Affairs along with FBI Historian Dr. John Fox. John, the FBI's history ledger finds that January 18th has been a good date for arrests."

Dr. Fox: "Well Neal in 1990 for instance Washington, DC, Mayor Marion Barry was arrested by the FBI and the District of Columbia Police for cocaine possession. He was charged with a number of counts of perjury as well as the drug charges and was found guilty of Misdemeanor Cocaine Possession later that year."

Mr. Schiff: Of course there was quite a video surveillance operation in the Barry case?

Dr. Fox: "The Washington Field Office agents had set up a sting and set up a sophisticated video surveillance operation using a camera going through a wall. And it turned out to be key because it caught Mr. Barry in illegal activity."

Vista Hotel, Room 727
1400 M Street, NW (on Scott Circle), Washington, DC

Former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry famously uttered "the b---- set me up" after being caught in an FBI sting that took place in this hotel room. Barry was brought to trial on 14 drug charges, but was convicted on only one count of cocaine possession. After serving a six-month federal prison sentence, Barry re-emerged in politics to be re-elected to Mayor of Washington, D.C., in 1994.