(Update-6/28/2016) Civil rights icon and former D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy returned to the U.S. June 27 after a 4-year self-imposed exile in Dubai. He was promptly arrested upon landing at Dulles International Airport but, according to news reports, he was released June 28 after a Maryland judge recalled his arrest warrant.
Fauntroy, who helped Martin Luther King, Jr. plan the 1963 March on Washington, courted legal troubles after failing to appear at a court hearing to answer charges that accused him of bouncing a check of about $50,000 that was meant to cover a 2009 inauguration event for President Barack Obama. A Prince George’s County court judge subsequently issued a bench warrant for Fauntroy’s arrest. Fauntroy reportedly fled the country for the United Arab Emirates in 2012, leaving his wife of nearly six decades in deep debt and facing foreclosure on their home.
Concerns grew that the 83-year-old, had taken ill, was being held against his will, or had fallen into poor mental health after he missed both the funeral of long-time friend former D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry and the 50th anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery March.
In his first interview since leaving the U.S., Fauntroy told the Washington Post, that he was eager and prepared to return home. The Post reports that Fauntroy began using the alias “Shahid Sarkar” in his emails, but signing his correspondence “The Congressman,” and began speaking of conspiracies and spies blocking his emails, and ‘rogue elements’ within the U.S. and international intelligence communities working against him.
“I have my ticket. I have my passport. Without question, it’s over,” he said. “I’m coming home.”
The Post reported that Fauntroy had been living the last three months, rent-free in the guest room of an apartment with a South Sudanese family in Ajman, north of Dubai. It was there that the U.S. State Department finally tracked him down and offered to help fly him home.
“[The State Department] said, ‘We’ve been asked to see if we can help you get home.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’ It was an answer to prayer,” Fauntroy told the Post. “I want to come home. It’s blistering hot, and I’ll be happy to come home for that reason, but also so I can see my wife, my son, my daughter and my new grandson. ‘New’ for me, because it’s been two years since he’s been born.”
According to a Twitter post, he saw his wife Dorothy for the first time in nearly five years on June 28.
Fauntroy was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers after he cleared customs at Dulles. He is being held without bond in the Loudoun County Jail, WUSA9 reporter Bruce Johnson tweeted. Fauntroy has a hearing set for July 5 on the warrant.
“The family is disappointed that they’re going to have wait to see him, but we fully expect his release in due time,” Johnny Barnes, one of Fauntroy’s attorneys, said. “He went through customs uneventfully and then Homeland Security people selected him out, went through his things, and said there’s this bench warrant issued.”
Barnes, who spoke to Fauntroy by phone after his arrest, said Fauntroy was “disappointed that this has happened.” Overall, Barnes said, Fauntroy seemed “much improved and in good spirits.”