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Judge issues arrest warrant for ex-U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds

Mel Reynolds, who failed to appear in court for a hearing on his tax case, was taken into custody in Atlanta returning from South Africa. | Sun-Times file photo

A federal judge has issued an arrest warrant for indicted former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds for failing to comply with his order for Reynolds to return to Chicago from a trip to South Africa.

A bench warrant was issued by U.S. District Court Judge John Darrah, but it won’t be executed until midnight Thursday, according to a court official and Reynolds’ attorney, Richard Kling.

Reynolds told Darrah in an open letter Thursday that he’s staying abroad to care for his ailing daughter in the African nation. Reynolds says his daughter is suffering from scoliosis and may also have cervical cancer.

Reynolds also asked Darrah “to show some compassion and understand.”

Kling said he hadn’t known what Reynolds was going to say in his statement but that he has told his client repeatedly that he would be found in violation of the judge’s order if he didn’t come back to Chicago.

Kling said he has spoken to his client frequently as he cares for his daughter in South Africa. Kling also called him about the arrest warrant after Thursday’s court hearing.

“My call was to apprise him of what Judge Darrah said and what the concerns are if he’s not back by midnight. The rest of his determination, he’ll have to make,” Kling said.

Darrah on Wednesday refused a request by Reynolds for the court to let him stay abroad longer. Reynolds’ trial is set to start May 2.

Reynolds has pleaded not guilty on a misdemeanor charge of failing to file income tax returns. Reynolds didn’t file returns in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to the charges. Each count carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $250,000 fine.

It’s the latest in a long and difficult chapter for Reynolds, who lost his South Side and south suburban 2nd Congressional District seat in 1995 after being convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker.

Reynolds was deported to the U.S. last year after paying a fine for violating Zimbabwe’s immigration laws. He also faced charges of possessing pornography after images of naked men and women were allegedly found on his iPhone. Those charges were ultimately dismissed.

Contributing: AP