CHICAGO — Former congressman and ex-con Mel Reynolds has hit the streets in hopes that voters will look beyond his past felony convictions and send him back to Capitol Hill.
But there'll be no baby-kissing on the campaign trail.
In fact, if Reynolds stumps too close to a school or a park, the convicted child sex offender's quest for “redemption” — and the seat vacated by disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. — could get him charged with a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison, law enforcement sources told DNAinfo.com Chicago.
In 1995, Reynolds was convicted on child pornography and criminal sexual assault charges for having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker, crimes classified as "child sex offenses."
State law prohibits child sex offenders from going within 500 feet of a “school, park, day care or playground.” Even though Reynolds is no longer required to register as a sex offender in Illinois, the school and park bans still apply, law enforcement sources said.
And if 2nd Congressional District voters do elect Reynolds, there’s a chance that their new congressman would have to sign on to a sex offender registry in Washington, D.C., police officials there said.
All sex offenders that live, work or go to school in Washington are required by law to have their criminal convictions reviewed by a general counsel who determines whether their name is added to a sex offender database.
“A person might have to register for 10 years in one state, and depending on the nature of the crime, have to register for a lifetime in our city,” Millie Morales, a Washington Police Department detective said. “It’s better to come forward, because U.S. Marshals are checking sex offender statuses and arresting everyone who doesn’t comply with the law.”
Reynolds campaign spokeswoman Lupe Alvarez did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
In Illinois, felons are barred from running for elected office, but federal election laws don't prohibit felons from running for Congress, or even president.
While serving a five-year jail term for sex crimes, Reynolds was convicted of bank fraud. Former President Bill Clinton pardoned Reynolds on the fraud charges in 2001.
When he announced his candidacy this week, Reynolds admitted past "mistakes," but asked voters to "look at the entire history of me and not just one particular time."