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Reynolds Convicted of Having Sex With Minor : Courts: Jury finds Illinois congressman, 43, guilty of all charges involving former campaign volunteer who was underage at the time.

From Associated Press

Rep. Mel Reynolds was convicted Tuesday of having sex with a former campaign worker while she was underage, asking her to obtain child pornography for him and then having her leave the state and sign false affidavits recanting the accusations.

As the verdict was read, Reynolds sat expressionless. He repeatedly mouthed an inaudible phrase and looked at the jury. His wife and mother sat next to each other in the courtroom with little expression on their faces.

Reynolds, 43, testified that he never had sex with campaign volunteer Beverly Heard when she was 16 and 17, and that they only fantasized about it over the phone. The black congressman said he was the target of a racially biased, politically motivated prosecution.

Jurors deliberated more than 14 hours before convicting Reynolds on all counts.

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The most serious charge, criminal sexual assault, carries a mandatory minimum penalty of four years in prison. He also was convicted of sexual abuse, child pornography and obstruction of justice.

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Cook County Judge Fred Suria set a Sept. 12 hearing date for post-trial motions. No sentencing date was set. Reynolds will remain free on a personal recognizance bond.

Reynolds left the courtroom with wife, Marisol. “There will be no comment,” he told reporters.

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Defense lawyer Ed Genson said his client would appeal.

Prosecutors built their case against Reynolds on graphic tape-recorded telephone calls in which Reynolds discusses sex acts with his teen-age accuser. The monthlong trial also focused on the conflicting testimony from the two-term Democrat and his accuser Heard, now 19.

After 13 nights in jail for refusing to testify, Heard emerged to tell the jury she had a consensual sexual affair with Reynolds beginning in 1992. But she said he doesn’t deserve prison and asked the jury to find him innocent.

Juror Patrick King said the panel reached its decision primarily on the phone tapes.

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“Nobody wanted to convict him completely on what Beverly Heard said,” King said.

Reynolds testified that he succumbed to his weakness and had phone sex with Heard but never had physical contact with her. He accused Heard of trying to extort him and said prosecutors used “Gestapo tactics” in an out-of-control effort to convict him.

Prosecutor Andrea Zopp denied that race and politics played a role. “The defendant sits here today not because he’s a congressman, not because he’s an African American, but because he committed a crime,” she said.


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