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Judge: Mel Reynolds gets to see Elzie Higginbottom’s tax records

Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds. | Sun-Times file photo

A federal judge has rejected claims by a prominent Chicago businessman that he is being harassed by former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds.

Elzie Higginbottom asked U.S. District Judge John Darrah last spring to quash a set of subpoenas Reynolds sent him seeking personal and business tax returns and bank documents. Reynolds sent the subpoenas while preparing for his trial for failing to file federal income tax returns. Higginbottom’s attorney described Higginbottom as “a victim of Mr. Reynolds,” and he asked for sanctions.

Earlier this week, Darrah denied Higginbottom’s request and said the records requested by Reynolds are “clearly relevant.” Federal prosecutors have said Higginbottom and Willie Wilson, another local businessman, were engaged in business ventures in Zimbabwe and agreed to pay Reynolds a fee to draw upon his relationships there.

Meanwhile, Darrah wrote that the misdemeanor charges against Reynolds require proof of an “intentional violation of a known legal duty.”

“If the tax information shows that the monies paid to (Reynolds) were business expense advances and not income, then it is more likely that (Reynolds’) failure to file income tax returns was not willful,” Darrah wrote.

Records show Reynolds had subpoenaed tax forms and correspondence from Wilcar LLC, Burling Builders, East Lake Management, LCL Higginbottom and ELH Partners LLC. The judge gave those companies 30 days to turn over the records.

Reynolds is accused of failing to file tax returns between 2009 and 2012. His trial, which was scheduled to begin this month, has been delayed until March 6.