Judge orders arrest warrant for ex-congressman in tax case

A judge on Thursday ordered the arrest of former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, who is facing federal tax charges but is refusing to return to Chicago from South Africa because he says he's caring for an ill daughter there.

U.S. District Judge John Darrah on Wednesday had denied a request from Darrah — who is free on bond — to delay the start of the start of his May 2 trial so he could stay abroad longer. Darrah ordered an arrest warrant after Reynolds told the judge in an open letter Thursday that he wouldn't appear in court as ordered. He said he's staying in South Africa because his 23-year-old daughter has scoliosis and may also have cervical cancer.

The Illinois Democrat asked the judge "to show some compassion and understanding."

"Maybe another parent could walk away from their child now, but I can't, that is why I will not be in Chicago today," Reynolds, a Chicago Democrat, wrote. "I need to stay here with my daughter for the time being to help her through this extremely critical time in her young life."

Reynolds had no comment on the judge's arrest warrant order. His attorney, Richard Kling, told the Chicago Tribune that he had warned Reynolds that he was due in court Thursday and hoped he would change his mind.

Reynolds has pleaded not guilty on a misdemeanor charge of failing to file income tax returns from 2009 to 2012.

This isn't Reynolds' first legal predicament.

A Harvard graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, Reynolds resigned his 2nd Congressional District seat in 1995 after being convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker. 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.