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Zimbabwe: Former Ill. congressman Reynolds pleads not guilty

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 9:10 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Former U S Congressman, Mel Reynolds, arrives to appear at the magistrates courts in Harare, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Reynolds was arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly possessing pornographic material and violating immigration laws. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds pleaded not guilty in a Zimbabwe court on Wednesday to charges of possessing pornography and must spend another night in jail before he can apply for bail.

Reynolds will appear in court again on Thursday for his bail hearing. Also on Thursday, he will be asked to enter a plea on a separate charge of breaking Zimbabwe's immigration laws.

Wearing a dark suit and open-necked white shirt with no tie, Reynolds, who lost his seat representing Illinois almost 20 years ago after being convicted of statutory rape, smiled as he walked past journalists' cameras into the courthouse. He told reporters he had received no assistance from the U.S. Embassy.

Reynolds, who is 62, allegedly overstayed his visa and brought several Zimbabwean models and other women to his hotel room where he took photographs and videos, according to Zimbabwe's state-controlled newspaper, The Herald.

In Zimbabwe, Reynolds reportedly helped draw investment to hotel and office projects and is also known for his opposition to U.S. sanctions against President Robert Mugabe.

Reynolds, a Harvard graduate and former Rhodes scholar, was once viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. He resigned from his congressional seat in 1995 after he was convicted by a jury of having sex with a former campaign worker while she was underage, and then trying to thwart the investigation. While in prison he was also convicted of bank and campaign fraud for concealing debts to obtain bank loans and diverting money intended for voter registration drives into his election campaign.

He was in jail until his sentence was commuted by then-President Bill Clinton in January 2001.

He made unsuccessful runs to regain a seat in Congress in 2004 and in 2013.

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