Melvin "Mel" Reynolds (born January 8, 1952) is a former Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Illinois. He resigned from Congress in 1995 after a conviction for statutory rape.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd district
January 3, 1993 – October 1, 1995
|Preceded by||Gus Savage|
|Succeeded by||Jesse Jackson Jr.|
January 8, 1952
Mound Bayou, Mississippi
Reynolds and his twin brother, Marvin Jerry Reynolds, were born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, sons of Reverend J. J. Reynolds and Essie Mae Prather. Reynolds moved to Chicago as a child. He received an Associate of Arts from one of the City Colleges of Chicago, and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and from Harvard University with a M.P.A.. He also won a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, where he attended Lincoln College and received an LL.B..
Before entering politics, Reynolds worked as an assistant professor of political science at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. He also founded the Community Economic Development and Education Foundation.
Reynolds sought the seat again, running in the 2013 special election to replace Jackson after Jackson retired. He came in 7th place in the Democratic primary.
In August 1994, Reynolds was indicted for sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer that began during the 1992 campaign. Despite the charges, he continued his campaign and was re-elected that November; he had no opposition. Reynolds initially denied the charges, which he claimed were racially motivated. On August 22, 1995, he was convicted on 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. He resigned his seat on October 1 of that year.
Reynolds was sentenced to five years in prison, thus he expected to be released in 1998. However, in April 1997 he was convicted on 16 unrelated counts of bank fraud, misusing campaign funds for personal use and lying to FEC investigators. Specifically, one count of bank fraud, two counts of wire fraud, eight counts of making false statements on loan applications, one count of conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission, and four counts of making false statements to the FEC. These charges resulted in an additional sentence of 78 months in federal prison. Reynolds served all of his first sentence, and served 42 months in prison for the later charges. At that point, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentence for bank fraud. As a result, Reynolds was released from prison and served the remaining time in a halfway house.
On February 18, 2014, Reynolds was arrested in Zimbabwe for overstaying his visa. He was allegedly found to be in possession of pornographic videos he had filmed with several women at the hotel where he was staying. Possession of pornography is a crime in the country. He had also purportedly accrued over $24,000 in hotel charges that he had yet to pay. The pornography charges were later dropped, but he pleaded guilty to violating immigration laws, and was deported to South Africa. He claimed in early March 2014 to be hiding there from Zimbabwean death squads, who he claimed were targeting him because he possessed information about American companies from Chicago doing business illegally in Zimbabwe.
On June 26, 2015 it was announced that Reynolds had been indicted by a grand jury for failure to file federal income tax returns for the 2009 through 2012 tax years. The next month he missed his arraignment, because he could not return to the U.S. due to issues with his daughter's health he claimed. It was not clear where Reynolds was, although he had previously hidden in South Africa out of fear for his life. In April 2016, Reynolds was sentenced to two months of prison for two bond violations in his tax case and his trial was scheduled for September; Reynolds decided to represent himself in court. Reynolds claims the majority of the income the government claimed should be filed on income tax returns was given by Elzie Higginbottom, the key witness for the trial on misdemeanor tax charges, to him in order to travel to South Africa to set up opportunities in real estate and the diamond industry. On September 28, 2017, a judge found Mel Reynolds guilty on tax charges, on all four counts alleging he failed to file a federal income tax return for four consecutive years. The two-time convicted felon faces up to 4 years in prison. The convictions are misdemeanors.
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- Kuvirimirwa, Farai (18 February 2014). "Zimbabwe: Former U.S Congressman Arrested". The Herald. allAfrica.com.
- "Ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds indicted on income tax charges". USA TODAY. 26 June 2015.
- "Illinois: Ex-Congressman Is No-Show at Arraignment". New York Times. Associated Press. 6 July 2015.
- Meisner, Jason. "Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds released on bond".
- Meisner, Jason. "Mel Reynolds says feds dragged his name through mud with sex tape talk".