Walter E. Fauntroy, who’d been avoiding a bad-check charge for the past four years while he was in the Persian Gulf, was ordered by a judge Wednesday to pay back his creditor by next month, according to his longtime attorney, Johnny Barnes. If he doesn’t, the 83-year-old civil rights leader will face a Sept. 12 trial in Prince George’s County Circuit Court.
Fauntroy, who once helped Martin Luther King Jr. plan the 1963 March on Washington and served for two decades as the District’s congressional delegate, left the country in early 2012 after a bench warrant was issued for him to appear in court on the $55,000 bad-check charge. He had allegedly signed a worthless check to an event planner who helped him host an ill-fated inaugural ball in 2009 for President Obama.
But shortly after the bench warrant was issued, Fauntroy flew to Dubai, leaving his wife of 58 years struggling to stave off foreclosure of their Northwest Washington home. When Fauntroy finally returned in June, he was arrested at Dulles International Airport and spent a night in the Loudoun County jail before being released the next day.
During his time abroad, he and his wife, Dorothy, 82, filed for bankruptcy and fought to keep a bank from taking their home, in the Crestwood neighborhood off 16th Street NW. All the while, Fauntroy was living in the United Arab Emirates, often on the streets or with strangers, trying to persuade financiers and friends to fund a green-energy project designed to provide access to clean water and energy to poor people in Africa and the Middle East.
Friends and relatives back home worried about his physical and mental health because he’d passed out numerous times in the heat and sent emails home worrying that spies were monitoring him.
In an interview Wednesday, Fauntroy vowed that he would repay Karen Bryant — who helped him plan a 2009 inaugural ball for President Obama at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center — before Sept. 12.
“Oh yeah, that’s going to be done,” he said. “People have come forward and have provided me money.”
In an interview this month, Bryant said she needed the money to protect her own credit scores and has been upset that she never was paid.
“For me, the whole journey has been difficult,” she said. “He made promises after promises.”
Barnes, Fauntroy’s attorney, said most of the money has been repaid to Bryant, with somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 left to go. Recently, Barnes said he’d received word from R. Donahue “Don” Peebles, a developer who considered running for mayor in 2010, that he was donating $10,000 to help reduce Fauntroy’s debt to Bryant.
An email message for Peebles’s spokesman was not returned.