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Ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds: Feds treating me ‘as if I was a terrorist’

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

Mel Reynolds expected the feds to be waiting to arrest him early Monday morning when he landed at the Atlanta airport.

To think otherwise would be “naive at best,” he said.

But the former congressman said he later became “livid” when authorities seized his phones, digital ID cards and computer — and asked for his security codes. Reynolds faces trial May 2 on federal misdemeanor tax charges in Chicago, and he said his entire trial strategy is on a computer now in the hands of the federal government.

“It was as if I was a terrorist,” Reynolds told the Chicago Sun-Times.

U.S. District Judge John Darrah agreed to issue a warrant for Reynolds’ arrest at the end of March after Reynolds failed to comply with the judge’s order to return from South Africa. Reynolds said he had been tending to his sick daughter there, and while he had declared his plans to return to the United States, his whereabouts were unknown for about 10 days.

Federal authorities confirmed Reynolds was arrested at the Atlanta airport, having arrived there on a flight from Johannesburg, South Africa. He appeared before a judge in a federal courtroom there and was released on his own recognizance.

He is expected back in the Northern District of Illinois by 3 p.m. Thursday, records show. However, Reynolds said authorities also left him without his wallet or money. He said he contacted the Sun-Times by phone from his attorney’s office in Atlanta.

“This is what my government has done to me,” Reynolds said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago declined to respond.

Reynolds faces four misdemeanor counts in Chicago for failing to file tax returns from 2009 to 2012. He has pleaded not guilty, but faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison on each count if convicted. 

“There are some documents on my computer that are absolutely paramount for my being found innocent of these charges,” Reynolds told the Sun-Times.