CHICAGO (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds failed to appear for his arraignment on federal tax charges Monday, and his lawyer told reporters that the Illinois Democrat couldn't return from an overseas trip in time because of a daughter's health problems.
Failing to show up for a scheduled arraignment in federal court is rare, but there was no indication from prosecutors or the judge that they suspect anything was amiss in the 63-year-old's surprise absence.
The sides gathered for the hearing in a U.S. district courtroom in Chicago, but it never formally convened. An aide to U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Judge Valdez said the arraignment would be reset for July 30.
Defense attorney Theodore Poulos told reporters afterward that his client travelled abroad in early June — weeks before the unveiling of the indictment on June 26 — but was unable to get back because of "medical issues involving his daughter."
Reynolds has ties to Africa. The onetime Rhodes Scholar said last year he went into hiding in South Africa out of fear for his life after threatening to expose illegal business dealings between American businessmen and Zimbabwe.
Reynolds' lawyer declined to say what country Reynolds travelled to and where he is now. He also wouldn't elaborate about the nature of the medical problems faced by the daughter.
The former congressman is charged with failing to file federal income tax returns from 2009 to 2012, and he faces a maximum one-year prison term on each count.
"I expect he will enter a plea of not guilty," his attorney told reporters. He added there were "serious questions" about whether the money at the heart of the case "actually constitutes income."
The indictment makes no reference to sums and doesn't identify income sources. Poulos also didn't offer details.
This isn't Reynolds' first legal predicament.
He resigned from his 2nd Congressional District seat in 1995 after being convicted of statutory rape for having sex with an underage campaign worker and was found guilty in state court. Later, he was convicted in federal court for concealing debts to obtain bank loans and diverting money intended for voter registration drives into his election campaign.