Former Democratic congressman Mel Reynolds says that he has “given up on America” and will move to Africa after he serves his latest prison sentence.
But Mel Reynolds was not the only one with things to say about this latest conviction for failing to file tax returns on more than $400,000 he received in consultant fees. “It’s a tragedy that you squandered the opportunities you had and the type of person you could have become,” federal Judge Robert Gettleman scolded him in court.
Reynolds represented Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District from January 1993 to October 1995. That is when he was convicted of the statutory rape of a 16-year-old worker in his campaign. Later, he was also convicted of funneling money for voter registration drives into his campaign and concealing various debts.
The former congressman acted as his own defense and argued that his prior convictions should not be counted against him in the sentencing. “The question is,” Reynolds asked, “how long does a person have to pay for mistakes?” He also attempted to contrast his misdeeds with his time in the military and fathering three children.
Reynolds was convicted of four counts of not filing tax returns on money that the prosecution claims he received while consulting for Chicago businessmen in Zimbabwe. He has been credited the two months already served in jail, so he will likely only serve another four months. The maximum penalty would have seen him behind bars for another four years.
Still, Reynolds does not believe he should serve any time at all. In fact, he is pretty certain his time there is the result of racism. “To put me in jail serves what purpose?” he asked the judge. “To teach me a lesson? … I’ve been taught about this racist society … every day of my life.” Then, “I’m going home to Africa,” he told reporters outside of the court. “I’ve given up on America because how long do African-Americans put up with this nonsense?”