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Ex-US congressman to reappear in Zimbabwe court

Thursday - 2/20/2014, 1:09pm  ET

Former US Congressman Mel Reynolds, centre left, prepares to enter a prison truck while handcuffed following his court appearance at the magistrates courts in Harare, Thursday, February, 20, 2014. Reynolds was arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly possessing pornographic material and violating immigration laws. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

GILLIAN GOTORA
Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- The lawyer for former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds said Thursday his client needed more time to understand the "essential elements" of the charges he faces after he failed to enter a plea on charges of violating immigration law.

Reynolds pleaded innocent on Wednesday to the charges of possessing pornography. Lawyer Arthur Gurira asked the court on Thursday for more time to explain to Reynolds the extent of the other charge he faces.

Magistrate Tendai Mahwe questioned the request.

"Why is this taking long? Why don't you make a plea so we can finish this case?" Mahwe asked Gurira.

A calm and composed Reynolds sat in the dock listening intently to the exchange between his lawyer and the magistrate.

"Ordinarily my attitude would be that we plead and get it out of the way," Reynold's lawyer Gurira told reporters. However, he added: "I have to be patient and diligent enough to fully explain the nature of the allegations to my client so that he can understand the essential elements so that if he pleads, he will fully understand what he is pleading to."

The state alleges that Reynolds had images of naked men and women on his iPhone 4S. In court documents, investigating officer George Garauzive said he discovered the photos when asked by immigration officials who arrested Reynolds to go through his phone.

Reynolds faces possible deportation for violating immigration laws and a fine for possession of pornography, Gurira said.

He will reappear in court on Friday.

Earlier Thursday, wearing baggy, worn-out khaki prison garb and slippers, Reynolds asked to be helped down the stairs to the holding cells at the court, but help was denied. His lawyer asked Wednesday if he could receive medical attention. He told the court however that Reynolds had not been ill-treated by the police while in jail.

In Zimbabwe, Reynolds reportedly helped draw investment to hotel and office projects and is also known for his opposition to U.S. sanctions against President Robert Mugabe.

Reynolds, a Harvard graduate and former Rhodes scholar, was once viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. He resigned from his congressional seat in 1995 after he was convicted by a jury of having sex with a former campaign worker while she was underage, and then trying to thwart the investigation. While in prison he was also convicted of bank and campaign fraud for concealing debts to obtain bank loans and diverting money intended for voter registration drives into his election campaign.

He was in jail until his sentence was commuted by then-President Bill Clinton in January 2001.

He made unsuccessful runs to regain a seat in Congress in 2004 and in 2013.


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