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Packages from the Middle East, an arrest in Libya, a humanitarian trip to Dubai, and mysterious green technologies: it sounds like a formula for a paperback thriller. Instead, it’s the life of former District congressional delegate Walter Fauntroy, whose supporters held a press conference this morning in an attempt to answer why Fauntroy is in Dubai instead of facing a Maryland warrant for his arrest and a foreclosure on his house.
While Fauntroy’s supporters promised that the press conference would reveal answers about his whereabouts, just about the only thing even they know for sure is that they’re raising money to save Fauntroy’s Crestwood house, where his elderly wife still lives. Those closest to Fauntroy would only speak in the broadest terms about why the civil rights movement figure is on an undefined “mission” in Dubai instead of dealing with his bench warrant, which stems from a dispute over an abortive 2009 inaugural party.
“There is something wrong here, we know that,” said Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark-Barnes.
Even Johnny Barnes, Fauntroy’s attorney and the person who appeared to know the most about the on-the-lam delegate, prefaced what he said with a caveat from an old zydeco musician: “My mama said she loves me, but she might be lying, too.”
Barnes claims to have talked to Fauntroy on the phone and received packages from the former mayoral candidate that were sent from Dubai. But even Barnes doesn’t know for sure whether Fauntroy is in the emirate.
“I think he’s in Dubai, but no one can be certain,” Barnes says.
International trips aren’t new for Fauntroy, who found himself briefly detained by Libyan rebels during that country’s civil war after he launched a self-styled peace mission there. But Fauntroy’s supporters were vague on why he’s (maybe) been in Dubai for three years, referring only to an undefined “mission” that somehow involves green technology and helping disadvantaged people. Barnes claims that Fauntroy is supported by a committee—a different one from the group of people who met in Anacostia today for the press conference—but declined to name the group’s members.
“He just believes that what he’s doing over there may help him accomplish his life’s work,” Barnes said.
Fauntroy’s supporters had trouble explaining why the public should donate to help Fauntroy’s family when he appears to have abandoned them. Even former D.C. Council chairman Arrington Dixon wondered how Fauntroy’s congressional pension was being spent.
“Let’s follow the money, because where is that going?” Dixon said.
Fauntroy’s supporters hinted that his age (82) played into his disappearance, but wouldn’t say so for sure. In a lengthy statement titled “They Kill Trees: When and Perhaps Why Congressman Fauntroy Fell,” his supporters—including Wilson Building lobbyist David Wilmot, talk show host Joe Madison, and both District shadow senators—compared him to civil rights icon Paul Robeson, who suffered his own decline abroad.
“The lesson is that the aging process is mysterious, even to science, and what we do not know is far greater than what we know,” the statement reads.
In an attempt to persuade Fauntroy to come back to the country, some supporters plan to fly to Dubai. Barnes said certain conditions have to be met before he’ll return, but wouldn’t say what they were, citing attorney-client privilege.
“Walter, if you hear about us and you know about this, we want you to come home,” Dixon said.
Photo by Will Sommer