Marion Barry told U.S. News this week that he believes the FBI attempted to murder him on Jan. 18, 1990, when he was arrested for crack cocaine possession in a sting operation.
During his third term as mayor of Washington, D.C., Barry was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room with ex-girlfriend Rasheeda Moore. Moore received the drug from an undercover police officer and was cooperating with the FBI.
"The FBI had a mind to entrap me, also the FBI tried to kill me by having some substance that wasn't proven to be crack," Barry told U.S. News in a phone interview.
"They had an EMT on the spot, which is not only unusual but rare in history of the FBI," Barry noted as he offered evidence to support his claim that the FBI attempted to kill him. “Why would they have an EMT on the scene if they weren’t trying?”
"When we went to the lab they couldn't say what it was," he added.
Bill Baker, who oversaw the sting operation as the assistant FBI director in charge of the Criminal Investigative Division, told U.S. News that he found Barry's accusation "absurd and disappointing."
Baker said that he personally approved the use of EMTs for the operation.
"I had been briefed on and approved the scenario including the use of EMTs," said Baker. "The purpose of the medical standby was to provide potential medical attention to Marion Barry should his criminal activities require it. We had to let him inhale because that was one of the charges."
According to Baker, "it was not standard procedure" for FBI sting operations to involve medical personnel, but Barry's case was unique.
"We were really looking after his health," Baker explained. "The arrest was on or near the celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday and we didn't want to have anything go wrong from a procedural standpoint."
"It was one of the most scrubbed and scrutinized arrests because of the target," said Baker, who briefed the attorney general and other prominent officials on the plans.
Baker said he doesn't know how exactly D.C. police—who conducted the sting in cooperation with the FBI—acquired the crack cocaine smoked by Barry, but he described the murder allegation as "absolutely ridiculous" and "an absurd conclusion on Mr. Barry's part."
Barry—who is now 76 —first alleged that the FBI attempted to kill him shortly after his 1990 arrest. Unlike his current allegation—that poison was disguised as crack—Barry's earlier statement focused on the strength of the cocaine.
"They had me ingest cocaine, crack cocaine, which could have killed me. ... I could have been dead now with 70, 80, 90 percent pure cocaine," Barry said in 1990.
An FBI chemist testified at Barry's trial that the rocks collected as evidence were 93 percent pure crack cocaine.
Barry's jury deadlocked on 12 of 14 charges, finding him guilty of just one count of cocaine possession that occurred before the sting.
According to a Washington Post article describing jury deliberations, one juror told the others that crack rocks seized as evidence didn't look like the drug to her, emboldening a bloc of jurors that refused to accept the popular mayor's guilt.
After serving six months in prison, Barry—who served as mayor from 1979 to 1991—was elected to another four-year term as mayor in 1994. He is currently a member of the D.C. city council.
"I think that the FBI spent 10 or 15 years trying to entrap me and incidentally I was never ever convicted of crack cocaine—never ever," Barry told U.S. News.