A four-time Olympic sprinter and American college track star is charged with unlawfully entering and damaging the Washington, D.C., embassy of the small west African nation of Equatorial Guinea, according to court filings reviewed by the News4 I-Team.
The U.S. Secret Service arrested Gustavo Envela two weeks ago for illegally entering the grounds and tossing trash and papers, including a picture depicting the assassination of the president of the country, according to an affidavit from the Secret Service.
Envela, 50, told the I-Team he took papers onto embassy grounds as a political protest but did so after hours to avoid creating an incident.
Prosecutors filed criminal charges against Envela this week in D.C. federal court.
Envela is a former track star at Stanford University who participated in the 1984 Summer Olympics at the age of 16 on behalf of Equatorial Guinea, then later raced at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
He became a political activist who has protested against public officials in Equatorial Guinea. The email address listed for Envela in the Secret Service affidavit matches the email posted on the Facebook page of the Voice of Democracy of Equatorial Guinea. Envela’s social media pages show a series of photos of Envela, including one in which he is standing in front of the embassy.
Envela sent an email in June stating he was a candidate for president of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea in 2020, the Secret Service affidavit said. According to court filings from prosecutors, an email Envela sent last month said, “June 5, 2018—The Last Supper (Birthday) That Dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo SHALL CELEBRATE—IN COUNTRY”—pledge made by Gustavo Envela, 2020 Presidential Candidate (The Republic of Equatorial Guinea.)”
“I have never, ever threatened to harm anyone," Envela told the I-Team. "All of my protests are peaceful.”
According to the Secret Service affidavit, “(Embassy staff) advised that Envela calls or emails embassy staff nearly every day in a harassing manner.”
Envela has been spotted on or near embassy grounds multiple times in 2018, including May 17, the court filings said.
“(Embassy staff) observed Envela on Embassy property, which again had been littered with documents and garbage,” the filing said.
Though Envela detailed a series of his disputes with the leaders of Equatorial Guinea, his attorney declined requests for comment. Envela said his protests are partly inspired by Equatorial Guinea’s refusal to provide him a passport to travel to the nation.
Envela was featured in published profiles for his sprinting accomplishments in the 1980s and 1990s, including in an alumni profile at Stanford. International Association of Athletics Federations databases show Envela competed at multiple Olympic Summer Games.
Published reports said he was the subject of a profile by NBC News in the 1980s while competing for Equatorial Guinea. Envela said his father once served as U.S. ambassador for Equatorial Guinea but fled the country in 1970, fearing for his safety.
Envela's next court appearance is scheduled for July 17.