A man convicted of drug dealing told a federal judge Monday that he gave crack cocaine to Mayor Marion Barry on repeated occasions last December.
Charles Lewis, 49, testified under oath in U.S. District Court that he gave Barry cocaine at least three times when Barry visited Lewis' room at a downtown Washington hotel.
Despite many press accounts of investigations against the mayor, Lewis' was the first on-the-record, under-oath accusation that Barry, the city's mayor for 10 years, had been given drugs.
The federal investigation began when city police called off an attempt to make an undercover drug purchase from Lewis because they discovered that the mayor was in Lewis' hotel room.
Barry has acknowledged making at least six visits to Lewis' hotel but has steadfastly denied using, seeing or purchasing drugs during those trips.
"I'm not worried at all about this," Barry told reporters at the District Building Monday night. The mayor described Lewis, a former associate, as a "convicted felon" and said: "He'll say anything in court . . . trying to save his own hide."
R. Kenneth Mundy, the mayor's lawyer, scoffed at the defendant's comments.
"We question the credibility of the source," Mundy said. "Charles Lewis is a besieged and beleaguered man who knows that his only salvation comes by not giving truthful statements about the mayor."
Lewis' statement came as Judge Stanley Sporkin was reviewing a plea bargain calling for Lewis to plead guilty to two counts of cocaine possession and distribution.
The second count centered on Lewis' activities at the hotel in December and referred to Lewis' distributing cocaine to one individual on at least three separate occasions.
"Because I don't want to look like a fool, was one of the individuals you gave cocaine to the mayor of this city?" Sporkin asked Lewis.
Lewis replied: "Yes, your honor, crack cocaine."
Sporkin then accepted the plea agreement and the two guilty pleas under it. Sentencing was set for Jan. 8.
Lewis faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1-million fine for each count.
U.S. Atty. Jay B. Stephens, in a meeting with reporters after the hearing, said federal prosecutors had attempted to keep Barry's name out because "this is an ongoing investigation . . . . Until people are charged, it seems to me, the shield of the grand jury should protect the innocent as well as the guilty."
It is unlikely that federal prosecutors will seek an indictment of Barry on charges of possession of cocaine with only circumstantial evidence to back up Lewis' statements, or without evidence of other violations of law by Barry, sources told the Washington Post.
Besides allegations of drug use, investigators are examining whether Barry committed perjury when he testified before the grand jury.
Lewis was convicted on cocaine distribution charges in the Virgin Islands earlier this year. His sentencing in that case was postponed indefinitely as part of the plea bargain.