CHICAGO (AP) Ÿ Rep. Mel Reynolds was convicted yesterday of having sex with a former campaign worker while she was underage, then trying to thwart the investigation.
As the verdict was read, Reynolds sat without an expression on his face. 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 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.
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.
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.
Prosecutors built their case on graphic tape-recorded telephone calls in which Reynolds discusses sex acts with his teen-age accuser. But the trial ultimately focused on the conflicting testimony of Reynolds, 43, a two-term Democrat, and accuser Beverly 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.
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 in closing arguments.
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