Ex-Congressman Mel Reynolds, facing tax charges, gets locked up

Mel Reynolds, the ex-Congressman accused of tax crimes, was taken into federal custody Wednesday after he failed to find a place to stay in the Chicago area where he could under electronic monitoring, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Reynolds faces only misdemeanor tax charges at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, but his case has been filled with drama.

On Wednesday, Reynolds told the court he is no longer being represented by prominent defense attorney Richard Kling and rather will represent himself.

U.S. District Judge John Darrah had given Reynolds several days to find a permanent place to stay where he could undergo home electronic monitoring, but Reynolds came up empty Wednesday and was taken into custody.

The issue came to head after Reynolds was arrested last week at the Atlanta airport when he failed to meet the judge’s deadline to return to Chicago from South Africa.

Darrah called Reynolds a “bad flight risk” when Reynolds finally appeared in Chicago. Reynolds said he had remained overseas, despite the judge’s instructions, to tend to his ailing daughter. Prosecutors have questioned the extent of her illness.

Reynolds also visited Zambia last year without a judge’s permission. But he has argued he’s not a flight risk because he has returned to Darrah’s courtroom after leaving the United States. He was also overseas when prosecutors filed their indictment.

Last July, Reynolds had to scramble to find a place to live because of lifetime restrictions on his residency stemming from his conviction decades ago for having sex with an underage campaign worker. His attorney said at the time that Reynolds “doesn’t have a lot of money.”

Kling also said that could help Reynolds as he fought the federal charges.

“You have to have an income in order to be required to file,” Kling said in July 2015. “I’m very serious. He has a defense, as to whether he had an income.”

Now Reynolds’ trial, set for June 20, could pull two prominent Chicago businessmen to the witness stand. Real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom and onetime-mayoral candidate Willie Wilson separately hired Reynolds to do consulting work involving Zimbabwe on their behalf in recent years.