There was a time when Mel Reynolds was one of the most promising young politicians in Illinois.
That was before he was sent to jail for having sex with a 16-year-old underage campaign worker. That was before he became a registered sex offender in 1995, forbidden to live within 500 feet of a school. That was before he was charged with failing to file income tax returns from 2009 through 2012. (Each count carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a $250,000 fine on conviction.) That was before he was found to have child pornography, tried to sabotage the case against him, and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
In 1997, Reynolds was convicted, while serving time in prison, of 15 counts of illegally raising campaign cash and defrauding banks out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. For that, he got 6 and 1/2 years in prison.
He served 2 and 1/2 years in state prison and was then transferred to a federal prison, but in 2001, Bill Clinton commuted his sentence hours before leaving office, at a time when Reynolds had 2 years left to serve.
In 2003, Reynolds made several attempts at a political comeback, running against another sterling example of rectitude, Jesse Jackson Jr. in the 2004 Democratic primary. That failed. Ten years later, Zimbabwe would deport him from that African country on charges that he had sexually explicit photos and videos on his mobile phone, in violation of a censorship law…in Africa! Although the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor visa violation, he was sent packing and came back to the U.S., where, on July 31st, while leaving the Dirksen US. Courthouse in Chicago, he was trying to find a place to spend the night.
Reynolds was able to secure a court-approved place to stay on an emergency basis and was ordered to appear in court at 2 p.m. on Friday with a more permanent address. Asked by reporters who he was talking to on his cell phone, Reynolds declined to answer fully, saying only, “This is a one-night deal,” and, of the charges of failing to pay taxes for four years, “The narrative has been that somehow I didn’t pay my taxes. I didn’t file. By going to trial, this is going to set the record straight.” Mel Reynolds is 63 years old, claims to have a “very sick” daughter in Africa, and is a convicted felon.