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CONGRESSMAN IS CONVICTED IN SEX CASE

Jurors convicted Rep. Mel Reynolds of having sex with an underage campaign volunteer on the strength of his own words - the explicit phone conversations he had with his accuser and the implausible explanation he offered on the witness stand.

Reynolds sat expressionlessly as the verdict was read Tuesday, repeatedly mouthing an inaudible phrase and staring at the jury.The 43-year-old Democrat testified that he only had phone sex with Beverly Heard. But he was convicted of having sex with Heard when she was 16 and 17, asking her to get him lewd photographs of a 15-year-old girl and trying to sabotage the investigation of the case.

Reynolds must serve at least some prison time, although how much was unclear. No sentencing date was set. He remained free on a personal recognizance bond, and refused to comment as he left the courtroom with his wife, Marisol.

Defense lawyers always knew that Reynolds was his own worst enemy - attorney Ed Genson said in closing arguments said his client "babbles constantly" to anyone who will listen. And they knew it was unlikely he could escape the taped phone calls that captured him talking with Heard about their sexual relationship.

But the defense didn't expect the jury to take the word of Heard - an admitted liar who spent 13 nights in jail before agreeing to testify - over the testimony of the two-term congressman.

Heard, now 19, allowed authorities to tape her phone calls with Reynolds after she came forward with her story in June 1994.

On the tapes, Reynolds talked about having sex with Heard in an apartment and his Chicago congressional office. When she described a fictional 15-year-old Catholic schoolgirl who might join them in a sexual threesome, the congressman exclaimed, "Did I win the Lotto?"

Juror James Limper said the jury considered the tapes "time and time and time again" during 14 hours of deliberations.

"They were crucial for me, though a little hairy for me to listen to," said Limper, 70.

Heard admitted lying in three recantations, and she only took the stand after being jailed for refusing to testify. But several jurors were convinced by her final statement, when she insisted that she had sex with Reynolds.