Ex-DC Mayor Barry prepares for transplant

February 19, 2009 1:49:34 PM PST
Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry, now 72 and beset by health problems as prosecutors are seeking to jail him on accusations of failing to file his 2007 tax returns, was admitted to a hospital Thursday to prepare for a kidney transplant. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

A Washington political icon who served four terms as mayor, Barry entered Howard University Hospital ahead of a transplant scheduled for Friday afternoon, university spokesman Ron Harris said. The former mayor and current District of Columbia Council member has said he was undergoing kidney dialysis in preparation for the transplant.

Bernadette Tolson, Barry's chief of staff, said he was in good spirits and more optimistic than some of his supporters. Harris noted that the six-hour transplant procedure has a 95 percent success rate.

"I think people are just worried and concerned, but he is not," Tolson said. "He says, 'I've got an outstanding physician who's world renowned."'

Dr. Clive O. Callender, chairman of the Howard University Hospital surgery department and founder of the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program, will perform the surgery using a kidney from a female donor located by the former mayor, aides said.

Barry served a total of four terms as mayor beginning with his first election in 1978. In 1990, during his third term, he was infamously videotaped in a hotel room smoking crack cocaine in an FBI sting. He served a six-month prison sentence for a misdemeanor cocaine possession conviction and was re-elected mayor in 1994 -- his fourth and final term. Barry consistently denied using drugs.

Now he's facing fresh legal woes. His planned surgery comes as prosecutors are seeking to have Barry jailed for failing to file his 2007 federal and local tax returns -- saying that was the eighth time in nine years that Barry failed to file returns.

He was given three years of probation in 2006 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges for failing to file his tax returns from 1999 to 2004. The latest episode was revealed when federal prosecutors asked a judge last week to revoke Barry's probation for failing to file his 2007 tax returns.

"It is not acceptable for any citizen to shirk a basic civil duty, let alone a former mayor and a current city councilman," the prosecutors' motion stated.

Barry's attorney Fred Cooke told WTOP-FM Radio on Wednesday that the councilman has now filed his 2007 returns. Barry has said his health problems distracted him from filing his taxes but added there was no excuse.

The kidney problems are the result of diabetes and hypertension that Barry has suffered for more than 20 years, his spokeswoman Natalie Williams said.

She noted the ex-mayor has been on dialysis for the past five years and that a donor, whom she declined to identify, was a longtime Barry friend who "turned out to be a perfect match."

Tolson said legal troubles have added to the stress on Barry ahead of surgery.

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