Judge scolds ex-U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds for Zambia detour

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A federal judge gave special permission to former congressman Mel Reynolds to visit South Africa - and only South Africa - then scolded Reynolds in court Thursday when it was revealed Reynolds made a trip to Zambia while he was in Africa. | AP file photo

A federal judge gave indicted former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds permission two months ago to visit his ailing daughter in Cape Town, South Africa.

But Reynolds didn’t have permission to go anywhere else. And Thursday, prosecutors revealed in court the ex-congressman also visited a doctor in Zambia without first notifying court personnel while tending to his daughter’s medical issues.

U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah briefly chastised Reynolds in court, telling him the opportunity he’d been given to leave Illinois “is an extraordinary privilege given the situation that you’re in right now.”

The judge handed down no further sanction, though. He set Reynolds’ trial for May 2.

An indictment unveiled June 26 accused Reynolds of failing to file federal income tax returns for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to the charges, each of which carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Reynolds held the 2nd Congressional District seat from 1993 to 1995. He was then convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker. While in jail for that conviction, the feds hit Reynolds with campaign finance charges for improperly using his campaign fund.

In 2001, former President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence to time served.

Last year he was also deported to the United States after paying a fine for violating Zimbabwe’s immigration laws. He was ordered to pay a $100 fine or five days imprisonment after pleading guilty to flouting the country’s immigration laws by staying longer than his visa permitted.

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