In reversal, former Illinois congressman to plead not guilty in tax case

Reuters News
Posted: May 17, 2016 6:27 PM

By Justin Madden

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Mel Reynolds, a former U.S. congressman who has had numerous legal troubles, has changed his mind and will plead not guilty to federal income tax charges, he told a judge in a handwritten letter made public on Tuesday.

"I am not guilty," he wrote to U.S. District Judge John Darrah. The letter was written last week and entered in the court's online filings on Tuesday.

Reynolds, 64, also apologized to the court for "any confusion caused" by a previous letter, made public last week, about his intention to plead guilty.

In the latest letter, Reynolds filed a motion for a mistrial, claiming federal prosecutors received private and lawyer-client privileged information from Homeland Security agents after they searched his computer.

Last week, Reynolds, who is representing himself after firing his attorney in April, told the judge he had been unable to prepare for the case because he has been in solitary confinement due to death threats. He affirmed in the most recent letter that he still could not properly prepare for his case.

His next court appearance is scheduled for June 7. A trial date is set for June 20.

Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, declined to comment on the recent court filing.

Reynolds was arrested by U.S. marshals last month at an Atlanta airport for violating the conditions of his pretrial release after he arrived from South Africa.

He pleaded not guilty in July to misdemeanor charges of failing to file income tax returns for 2009 through 2012.

He was indicted in June and faces up to a year in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the four counts against him.

A Rhodes scholar and one-time rising star in the Democratic Party, Reynolds was first elected to Congress in 1992.

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In August 1994, he was indicted for having a relationship with a 16-year-old campaign worker but was re-elected that year in his Chicago district without opposition. The case ended with a conviction on sexual assault and child pornography charges in 1995 and Reynolds resigned.

Before his scheduled release from prison in 1997, Reynolds was convicted of bank fraud and misusing campaign funds and sentenced to serve additional time. He was released in 2001.

Reynolds tried politics again but in 2013 lost a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives seat of Jesse Jackson Jr., who had resigned before pleading guilty to fraud charges.

(Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis)