Federal prosecutors insist they know nothing about the contents of a computer carried by former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds when he was arrested in Atlanta last spring.
Except one thing: “They contain certain sexually explicit videos involving the defendant that may constitute contraband.”
The feds made that claim in a court filing on Tuesday as Reynolds continues to seek sanctions against them in his misdemeanor tax case and tries to get the case thrown out, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Reynolds isn’t facing any criminal charges over the alleged sexually explicit videos.
In 2014, though, he faced charges in Zimbabwe of possessing pornography — only to have the charges dismissed.
Two decades earlier, between 1993 and 1995, Reynolds held the 2nd Congressional District seat. He was then convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker.
While in jail for that conviction, the feds hit him with campaign-finance charges for improperly using his campaign fund. In 2001, then-President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence to time served.
In his most recent case, Reynolds alleges that prosecutors improperly gained access to information on his computer, which was filled with documents related to his pending trial. Reynolds was charged in 2015 with four counts of failing to file a federal income tax return.
Ever since, he has been involved in one skirmish with the feds after another.
This dust-up dates back to April, when U.S. District Judge John Darrah issued a warrant for Reynolds’ arrest because Reynolds failed to comply with an order to return from South Africa, where he had been tending to his ailing daughter. Reynolds was arrested at the Atlanta airport, and he immediately complained that authorities seized his phones, digital ID cards and computer.
Reynolds claimed in May that Homeland Security agents discussed “the private content” of his computer with Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas, one of the prosecutors assigned to Reynolds’ tax case in Chicago. Jonas later explained that he inquired through a Chicago IRS agent whether Homeland Security agents in Atlanta had found contraband on Reynolds’ computer.
Jonas said in an August court filing that “the IRS case agent learned that there were items that may constitute contraband, but that no charges would be sought.” Later, in his own filing, Reynolds called that comment “a gratuitous flagrant attempt to get the press speculating about ‘contraband’ in the content of defendant’s computer. It is only meant to pick the jury through the news media. It is also extremely unethical and bias.”
But Jonas also insisted that, “other than the potential contraband, at no point has anyone from the Chicago prosecution team ever learned of the contents of the defendant’s computers, phone or SIM cards.”
Darrah sided with prosecutors, denying Reynolds’ request for sanctions and writing in an order that “without learning of any of the contents, the government cannot introduce evidence gained from privileged communications, use confidential information regarding defense plans and strategy, and/or take other actions designed to give the prosecution an unfair advantage at trial.”
This month, Reynolds asked the judge to reconsider, arguing that the judge “takes prosecutors(‘) word at face value that prosecutors did not gain access to or review the content of defendant’s computer. This acceptance of the prosecutor’s denial is troubling.”
Reynolds’ request prompted Tuesday’s disclosure by federal prosecutors about the sexually explicit videos, which the feds in Chicago deny they’ve viewed.
Reynolds tax trial in Chicago is set for March 6.