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Former congressman Mel Reynolds denies pornography charge in Zimbabwe

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By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE (Reuters) – Former congressman Mel Reynolds pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of possessing pornographic images and videos, two days after his arrest at a hotel in Zimbabwe.

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Reynolds, 62, a convicted sex offender in the United States, will also face charges on Thursday of staying in the southern African country without a valid visa.

Lawyer Arthur Gurira entered a ‘not guilty’ plea on behalf of Reynolds, who sat motionless in the dock. The former Illinois congressman, who wore a creased grey suit, faces a maximum two-year jail term or a fine if convicted on the pornography charge.

Gurira asked the magistrate court to allow his client to seek medical attention for an unspecified illness and said he would apply on Thursday for his release from detention.

Gurira said he was also trying to convince Reynolds to plead guilty to all the charges.

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“I am still trying to persuade him to plead guilty to all the charges, they are not that serious. I believe he will get a fine on the pornography charge because he never caused them (the pictures and videos) to be published,” said Gurira.

State prosecutors accuse Reynolds of possessing “nude pictures and videos of naked women and men having sexual intercourse” on his mobile phone, according to the copy of the charge sheet seen by Reuters.

Possession of pornography is illegal in Zimbabwe.

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Reynolds arrived at the courthouse in a police truck and when asked by reporters how he had been treated in custody, he replied: “Fine”.

If Reynolds is convicted of violating Zimbabwe’s immigration laws, he could be deported, his lawyer said.

The state-owned Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday that Reynolds had run up $24,500 in unpaid hotel bills.

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Reynolds, a former Rhodes scholar, was a fast-rising star in the U.S. Democratic party when he was forced to resign in 1995 after being convicted of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography.

In recent years Reynolds had recast himself as a champion of U.S. investment in Africa.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

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President Donald Trump's inherited wealth has meant he's never had to learn from his mistakes, Trump biographer Tim O'Brien told MSNBC's Brian Williams on Thursday.

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The Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are both rooting for President Donald Trump to win re-election in 2020, a New York Times columnist argued on MSNBC on Thursday.

Thomas Friedman was interviewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word."

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