After Bennett Report, Whither Marion Barry?
Those of you out there hoping for the end of Marion Barry's political career in the wake of a D.C. Council report finding he took kickback from his girlfriend—well, don't pop that champagne bottle yet.
Attorney Robert S. Bennett, in his report, recommends that the council refer the violations to the U.S. attorney's office for potential prosecution—which likely represents the only way to force Barry from office. And a criminal case might not be as cut-and-dry as it sounds; prosecutors have been aware of the allegations against Barry for some time and in fact questioned some of the main players over the summer. If prosecutors have already taken a look and determined that the case wasn't worth charging, Bennett's findings may or may not make much difference.
An interesting twist is that District has a new chief prosecutor on the job this week: Ron Machen was confirmed as U.S. attorney this week, and the Barry case stands to be among the first high-profile cases to hit his docket. Will it represent a chance for Machen to make an early mark?
The other fascinating question is: What will the D.C. Council do? For one, the council will have to vote to refer charges to prosecutors, which it will almost certainly do. But will the council take other steps? There are no codified censure proceedings, as there are in Congress. But at least some councilmembers will push to express some form of institutional disapproval of Barry's actions.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary M. Cheh led the charge this afternoon with an e-mailed statement, which noted that "it is important that the Council condemn the transgressions of Councilmember Barry."