|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, U.S.
|Education||City Colleges of Chicago|
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (BA)
Lincoln College, Oxford (LLB)
Harvard University (MPA)
Melvin "Mel" Reynolds (born January 8, 1952) is an American politician from Illinois. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the United States House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995. He resigned in October 1995 after a jury convicted him of sexual assault charges related to sex with an underage campaign worker.
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 ran three times from 1988 to 1992 in Democratic Party primary elections against incumbent Rep. Gus Savage, who was known for racially incendiary and anti-Semitic remarks that drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. In 1988, Reynolds finished third with only 14% of the vote with multiple candidates running. In 1990, Reynolds lost, but ran much closer after Savage's conduct was criticized by the House Ethics Committee in connection with a sex scandal.
In 1992, redistricting changed the boundaries of the second district to include more suburban areas. Suburban voters were turned off by Savage's rhetoric and supported Reynolds in the primary, giving him a two-to-one margin in the primary. He went on to win the November election in the heavily Democratic district. In Congress, he was granted a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, the first freshman to be so appointed in 14 years. He voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement and introduced legislation on gun control.
Conviction and resignation
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. He also faced charges of child pornography for asking the underage campaign worker to obtain "lewd photographs of another girl who was age 15" and obstruction of justice for convincing one of the girls involved to lie to authorities. Despite the charges, he continued his campaign and was reelected 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 criminal sexual assault, sexual abuse, 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.
In 2004, Reynolds sought to win back his old house seat, but was overwhelmingly defeated in the Democratic primary by incumbent Jesse Jackson, Jr., with Jackson netting 88% of the vote. 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.
Later legal troubles
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, Reynolds was indicted by a grand jury for failure to file federal income tax returns for the 2009 through 2012 tax years on more than $400,000 income. 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, Judge Robert Gettleman found Reynolds guilty on tax charges, on all four counts alleging he failed to file a federal income tax return for four consecutive years. He was sentenced by Gettleman to six months in prison on May 10, 2018 which he begun serving at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago on August 1. At a press conference after the sentencing, Reynolds stated he planned to move to South Africa with his daughter after his release.
- List of African-American United States Representatives
- List of American federal politicians convicted of crimes
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- Rudin, Ken (2007-06-06). "The Equal-Opportunity Culture of Corruption". NPR.org. Retrieved 2007-07-29.
- "Black Americans in Congress". U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2016-07-02.
- "Savage, Gus". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
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- "Savage Running on the Edge". Washington Post. 1990-03-09.
- "Rep. Savage Claims Victory in Illinois". New York Times. 1990-03-21.
- "THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: Primaries; Brown and Tsongas Search For Victory in Connecticut". New York Times. 1992-03-19.
- "Reynolds, Mel". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
- "Illinois Indicts a Congressman In a Sex Case Involving 2 Girls". New York Times. 1994-08-20.
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- "Kelly Easily Wins Democratic Nomination to Replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress". Chicago Tribune. 2013-02-27.
- Kuvirimirwa, Farai (18 February 2014). "Zimbabwe: Former U.S Congressman Arrested". The Herald. allAfrica.com.
- "Official: Mel Reynolds deported from Zimbabwe". CHicago Tribune. 2014-02-24.
- "Ex-U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds reports to prison to start four-month sentence". Chicago-Sun-Times. 2018-08-01.
- "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". Chicago Tribune.
- Meisner, Jason. "Mel Reynolds says feds dragged his name through mud with sex tape talk". Chicago Tribune.
- Meisner, Jason. "Judge finds Mel Reynolds guilty of tax charges, marking his third conviction". Chicago Tribune.
- Sobol, Rosemary (August 2, 2018). "Ex-U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds Surrenders to Prison to Serve Rest of 6-Month Sentence for Tax Conviction". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- Meisner, Jason. "Mel Reynolds given 6 months in prison, says he's 'done with America'". Chicago Tribune.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd congressional district
Jesse Jackson, Jr.