Remember former Chicago Representative Mel Reynolds? If you recall, he resigned from his congressional seat in 1995 after he was convicted of 12 counts of statutory rape, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. Well, he is back in the news after an arrest in Zimbabwe. You guessed it. He is charged with allegedly possessing pornographic material and violating immigration laws.
The biggest surprise for me was not that Reynolds was arrested but that he was out of jail. He was convicted of sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer. In a story all too familiar, he was reelected to his Chicago seat despite the criminal charges — as was the case with Jesse Jackson Jr. In an indictment of the voters, both men came from the same district. Jackson replaced Reynolds and then after Jackson was convicted, Reynolds tried to get the seat back under a “redemption” campaign. The blind loyalty shown by voters to these two men was a disgrace that cost millions in special elections.
While he was convicted on 12 counts, he was given only five years in 1995 and only went to prison until 1998. However, in April 1997, he was convicted on 15 unrelated counts of bank fraud and lying to SEC investigators. He was looking at the full sentence on the first conviction plus an additional sentence of 78 months in federal prison. That is when President Bill Clinton stepped in. While Clinton has worked hard to get people to forget his scandals in office, his abuse of the pardon powers from friends like Marc Rich is hard to forget. Less known but equally outrageous was his commutation of Reynolds who showed an utter contempt for the law and a sense of total impunity. However, Clinton stepped in to set him free.
He ended up in Zimbabwe and arrested again. He had racked up hotel bills worth $24,500 by the time he was arrested. He has been in the country helping the corrupt government of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to avoid sanctions. Now there is an image. A former felon and disgraced congressman fighting international sanctions against one of the most abusive and corrupt leaders in the world.
Perhaps Clinton can write him a letter of support.