CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Congressman Mel Reynolds has filed a handwritten motion asking to plead guilty to tax evasion, claiming the terms of his confinement have left him unable to prepare for trial next month.
The motion, filed Tuesday, states Reynolds has been placed in protective custody at the Kankakee County Jail, due to death threats from gang members with ties to Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover, who allegedly ordered a hit on Reynolds in the 1990s, when Reynolds opposed Hoover’s parole.READ MORE: FDA Approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine For Children Ages 12 To 15
Reynolds, 64, said being forced to spend 23 hours a day locked up has left him unable to prepare for trial, scheduled for June 20. He is facing four misdemeanor charges accusing him of failing to file income tax returns from 2009 to 2012.
“Your honor, at this time I am ready to enter a plea of guilty,” Reynolds wrote. “Under the circumstances of my confinement I have no other choice.”
Reynolds was arrested on a bench warrant last month, after returning to the United States from South Africa after previously missing a mutually agreed hearing date before Darrah.
When Reynolds couldn’t provide a place of residence where he could stay while on electronic monitoring, Darrah ordered him taken into custody. Reynolds told the judge that one location did not want the equipment on the property, adding that his status as a registered sex offender limits places he can live, such as near schools or playgrounds.
Reynolds said, while in protective custody, he has no access to computers to do legal research, or recover documents he needs for his defense; and cannot interview potential witnesses, or consult with his standby attorney, Richard Kling. Reynolds fired Kling last month, and began representing himself.READ MORE: Navy Pier Flyover Completed After Years Of Construction Delays -- Many Ask Why It Too So Long
“It is more than clear that I cannot get ready for trial,” he said. “My right to represent myself means nothing if I am then placed in a position where it is impossible to prepare for trial. Therefore, I request to come to court at the earliest time possible to enter my plea of guilty.”
In a previous handwritten motion asking to be moved to a halfway house so he can have the freedom he needs to prepare for trial, Reynolds also said he has been suffering from chest pain and very high blood pressure while in jail, and went to the hospital last month.
He was due back in court on May 19.
Reynolds, once a Rhodes Scholar and a rising political star, saw his career come crashing down in 1995 after a Cook County jury convicted him of having sex with an underage campaign worker. While behind bars for the sex charges, he was also convicted in federal court on financial and campaign fraud charges, but President Bill Clinton pardoned Reynolds in 2001, and he was released from prison.
He ran for Congress again in 2012, in the special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned amid a federal investigation that eventually led to Jackson pleading guilty to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. But Reynolds got less than 1 percent of the vote in a crowded Democratic primary.
Last year, Reynolds was arrested in Zimbabwe, for allegedly possessing pornographic images and videos, and violating Zimbabwe’s immigration laws.MORE NEWS: Buckingham Fountain To Be Turned On Before Memorial Day After Sitting Dry For Over A Year Amid Pandemic
The pornography charges were later dismissed, Reynolds pleaded guilty to the immigration charge, and he was deported from Zimbabwe. He later accused authorities of trumping up the charges against him to discredit him, after he gathered embarrassing information about the Zimbabwe government.