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Mel Reynolds, In Hiding, Complains Media Ran With Trumped-Up African Porn Charges

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(CBS) – Disgraced former Congressman Mel Reynolds says he is in hiding in South Africa following his deportation from Zimbabwe, where he says authorities trumped up pornography charges against him.

Reynolds, who spoke with CBS 2 by phone Monday, says he developed an infection while being jailed in Zimbabwe under abusive conditions last month. He says his life is in danger, and he has requested protection from the U.S. government as he prepares to return to Chicago.

The bulk of his interview was spent blasting the U.S. media for running with the story of the original charges against him in Zimbabwe -– that he allegedly possessed pornography.

The 62-year-old Reynolds suggested Zimbabwe officials inflated accusations to discredit him after he compiled embarrassing information about the nation’s corrupt government.

“They knew all they had to do was put S-E-X in anything related to me, and the press would run with that,” Reynolds told CBS 2’s Brad Edwards.

He rankled when Edwards noted the former congressman’s past is tainted by sex scandal.

“I was convicted of having sex with someone underage,” Reynolds shot back. “In 47 states in America, that wouldn’t have been a crime.”

A judge in Zimbabwe dismissed the pornography charges against Reynolds, saying police did not have the proper paperwork. Reynolds ended up pleading guilty to overstaying his visa and paid a fine.

Reynolds, who was traveling with his daughter, said he was in an undisclosed location in South Africa (an international prefix was used for the call).

He says he plans to hold a news conference there on Tuesday and hopes to be back in Chicago in a week or so.

Reynolds served as congressman of Illinois’ 2nd District from 1993 until 1995, when he was convicted in a sex scandal involving an underage campaign worker. While serving that sentence, he was convicted of federal financial and campaign fraud charges.

President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence to time served in 2001.

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