Mel Reynolds, the disgraced former U.S. congressman who was arrested last month in Zimbabwe for, among other things, allegedly shooting porn vides and photographs with professional models, is now warning that a Zimbabwean death squad is trying to kill him.
Reynolds told the Associated Press that his life was in danger, and he is currently in hiding in South Africa to avoid a secret death squad that wants to kill him. Reynolds said he possesses information that would expose secret dealings between U.S. businessmen and the Zimbabwe government.
The pornography charges, which were later dropped, were intended to discredit him, Reynolds said. He was deported from Zimbabwe last month after pleading guilty to violating its immigration laws.
A Chicago TV station, WLS, also reached Reynolds by phone. He denied the pornography charges and reiterated that they were part of a smear campaign.
“There were no pornographic images on the phone that would be considered pornographic in any place other than Zimbabwe,” the Illinois Democrat told WLS. “That in and of itself is a ruse. If a picture of woman topless is pornography, then I plead the Fifth.”
“They knew the press would jump on that. That would be the story: ‘Here we go again with Mel Reynolds,'” he said. “They were right. It was meant to discredit me so the information that I have would not be initially believed.”
Reynolds told the news station that he would begin revealing the information about illegal business deals in the coming days.
The Zimbabwean government emphatically denied Reynolds’s allegation to the AP.
“If the Zimbabwean government had anything to hide, we would have kept him (Reynolds) here,” Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Information Supa Mandiwanzira said. “The fact that we did not should indicate to anyone that the claims are not true. The fact of the matter is that he was found to be in the country illegally. He had overstayed his visa and so he was deported.”
As TPM reported last month, Reynolds had apparently become something of a business mogul in the African country. He helped to secure a $145 million Hilton hotel deal in the capital, Harare, and accompanied American business groups in trips to the country.
Eliza Higginbottom, a Chicago real estate developer who led one of the delegations to Zimbabwe, did not respond at the time to TPM’s requests for comment.
Reynolds described to the AP decrepit conditions in the Zimbabwe jail where he was held. He said he was attacked by inmates and his big toe had almost been severed.
“There was no running water and no working toilets and the stench was beyond your imagination,” he said. “About 60 people dressed in rags slept on concrete floors and we were only given one meal a day. The food was so bad that I ate only one meal on the Tuesday and didn’t eat again until I got out on the Sunday.”
Back in 1995, Reynolds was convicted on a dozen sex-related charges, including statutory rape and solicitation of child pornography. While serving a five-year prison sentence, he was also convicted of bank fraud and lying to investigators, staying behind bars until President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence in 2001.