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Court approves Mel Reynolds temporary housing

A judge on Friday approved former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds’ crashing with a friend while he awaits trial on misdemeanor charges of failing to file tax returns, after finding the friend’s address didn’t violate sex-offender rules restricting where he can live.

However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez ordered Reynolds to give up his passport and notify the court if his address changes.

“I’m signing off on the conditions,” Valdez said. “Remember that violation could result in your bond being revoked.”

Reynolds, now 63, had posted a personal recognizance bond in an indictment released June 26 accusing him of failing to file federal income tax returns for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He has pleaded not guilty.

However, Reynolds, who recently had been living in South Africa, was challenged by the lifetime restrictions stemming from his conviction decades ago for having sex with an underage campaign worker.

Prevented from living near schools or day care centers, he had to find a place to stay for one night Thursday, after Valdez shot down two of his housing options — including a residence near a kids center in Bartlett and a Red Roof Inn in Indiana.

A point of contention during his court hearing was a court representative’s recommendation that Reynolds be subjected to electronic monitoring. Reynolds’ attorney, Richard Kling, successfully argued against it.

“That’s nuts,” said Kling, noting the charges against Reynolds are misdemeanors, not felonies. Valdez rejected the recommendation.

After his court appearance, Reynolds and his attorney blasted the recommendation to reporters, citing U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s recent arraignment on more serious felony charges — with no such recommendation.

“In 2015, they want to treat a black man like he’s a slave,” Reynolds said. “How on earth can the standard be so different than what happened to Dennis Hastert?”

Reynolds said he was also disappointed in having to surrender his passport, since he had been in South Africa tending to his seriously ill daughter, he said. She is due to have surgery soon, now without him there, he said.

The case was continued until September. Reynolds has said he will go to trial on the charges, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $250,000 fine.

His case could mean two prominent Chicago businessmen could be called to testify, the Sun-Times has reported.

Real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom and onetime-mayoral candidate Willie Wilson separately hired Reynolds, a felon, to do consulting work involving Zimbabwe on their behalf in recent years.

Reynolds and his attorney indicate they will argue the money received from the two did not constitute income.