September 29, 1995
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jeff Flock
CHICAGO (CNN) -- He picked cotton as a child. He couldn't read until he was 9. He also became a Rhodes scholar and was elected to Congress. But it was a convicted Mel Reynolds who emerged from Chicago's Criminal Courts Building Thursday, sentenced to five years in prison for having sex with an underage girl and then covering it up.
"He let his own personal needs for sexual gratification get in the way of being a law-abiding normal citizen and he has simply refused to accept his own conduct," said Cook County Prosecutor Andrea Zopp. (150K AIFF sound OR 150K WAV sound) That conduct involved both phone sex and, a jury found, numerous liaisons with then-16-year-old Beverly Heard.
"You blew it," said Judge Fred Suria, referring to Reynolds' promising congressional career. "I think of all those things you could have done for education, for those kids who will join gangs because you weren't there to help. You threw it away."
"I think the judge was prepared to give him eight to ten years," said Reynolds' attorney, Sam Adams. "I think the reason he gave him what he gave him was because, I thought, Reynolds' statement in his own behalf ... was one of the most brilliant I've ever heard."
Reynolds was unrepentant, continuing to deny guilt and claiming he was the victim of a racist, politically motivated prosecution. "When they shackle me like they shackled my slave ancestors and take me off to jail," he told the court, "nobody will see me crawl."
"Nobody's asking him to crawl into a corner," Zopp says. "I just want the man to say, 'I did wrong, I'm sorry and let's move on.' And I didn't hear those words come out of his mouth."
Reynolds has been ordered to prison next Thursday unless an appellate court allows him to go free while he appeals his conviction. His resignation from Congress takes effect October 1.
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