Prosecutors on Monday dropped a bad-check charge against renowned civil rights leader Walter E. Fauntroy after he paid his debt, clearing up a legal mess that had left the 83-year-old a fugitive overseas for several years.
A Prince George’s County judge had ordered Fauntroy to pay $19,800 he owed to Karen Bryant, a Maryland business consultant he hired to plan an ill-fated private inauguration ball for President Obama in 2009.
By last week, Fauntroy had paid back $20,000, said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“He met the requirements set by the court, so we dismissed the charges,” Erzen said.
A court had been holding the payments Fauntroy sent in escrow until the full amount due was collected, according to online court records. A judge on Monday ordered the $20,000 turned over to Bryant.
For Fauntroy, his family and friends, the resolution of the case was a huge relief.
“We’re absolutely elated,” said his attorney, Johnny Barnes. “This was a cloud hanging over him and really tainted everything he did.”
Fauntroy helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. plan the 1963 March on Washington and served as the District’s delegate to the House of Representatives for two decades. He was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Northwest Washington for 50 years.
He left the District in 2012 after a bench warrant was issued for him to appear in court on the bad-check charge. He spent more than four years living in the United Arab Emirates amid mounting legal and financial troubles. At one point, his wife of 59 years, Dorothy, was in danger of losing their Northwest Washington home to foreclosure.
Friends and former colleagues, who had expressed concern about his mental and physical health, finally persuaded Fauntroy to come home this year. He was arrested in June after landing at Dulles International Airport and was briefly jailed in Loudoun County.
In an interview at his home in July, Fauntroy said he had missed his family and friends.
“I had a difficult time getting back,” he acknowledged. “[Four and a half] years is an eternity.”
But he said he remained committed to returning overseas to pursue his dream of building emissions-free power plants and stand-alone recycling machines for poor people around the world.
Lynda Robinson and Ian Shapira contributed to this report.