CHICAGO (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, facing federal tax charges, scrambled Thursday to find a place to stay to meet bond conditions after prosecutors told a judge that restrictions on sex offenders apply to the Chicago Democrat because of a decades-old statutory rape conviction.
The cash-strapped Harvard graduate, who is represented by a federal defender, has no home of his own; he found a place to spend the night after hours of searching.
The issue arose at a morning hearing in U.S. District Court in Chicago after Reynolds entered a not guilty plea to failing to file income tax returns from 2009 to 2012 and as both sides raised the question of bond. Reynolds resigned from Congress after a 1995 conviction for having sex with an underage campaign worker.
He wasn't required to register as a sex offender under laws at the time, his court-appointed attorney, Richard Kling, said. But prosecutors said they would agree to Reynolds remaining free pending trial on an unsecured bond — which requires no money down — only if he lived under standard sex-registry restrictions.
A South Side Chicago residence where Reynolds lived recently was ruled out because it's within 1,000 feet of a school. A suburban Bartlett house where Reynolds said he could stay with an acquaintance was excluded because it's close to a children's center. When Kling broached the idea of Reynolds staying in a northwest Indiana motel, not far from Chicago, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez promptly responded, "Not appropriate."
After Valdez said she would give Reynolds several hours to find alternatives, he was seen in a courthouse lobby using a cellphone. Kling told reporters Reynolds was trying to find somewhere to go.
"I don't know where he's going to stay. He doesn't know where he's going to stay," Kling said.
In the late afternoon, Kling told reporters Reynolds finally found a place to stay overnight that court officials approved; he said the place is in Chicago, though he declined to provide details. Kling said he's hopeful longer-term accommodations could be made. Another hearing was scheduled for Friday.
Kling described Reynolds' financial situation as dire, explaining that qualifying for a federal defender requires that someone has "no money or limited money."
Kling also said he hoped a judge would allow Reynolds to keep his passport. Reynolds' daughter is seriously ill in Africa, Kling said, and his client would like the option of traveling to see her.
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