Rep. Mel Reynolds, convicted of having sex with an underage campaign volunteer, said Friday night that he will resign his congressional seat effective Oct. 1.
The 43-year-old lawmaker, whose private life was thrown open to the world in embarrassing sexual detail, made the announcement before a national TV audience on CNN's "Larry King Live."Reynolds said at the opening of the hourlong interview that he had
told his aides to notify House Speaker Newt Gingrich of his intention to resign.
Reynolds stuck to his story that he never touched his teenage accuser and only indulged in phone sex with her.
"I made a very stupid immature mistake. . . . I allowed myself to get involved in a conversation with someone . . . and had a fantasy phone-sex conversation with this woman," the two-term Illinois Democrat told King.
Reynolds' accuser, Beverly Heard, 19, said the show proved "what a smooth talker he is."
"He has proven how he can play with the truth," she said.
Reynolds told King that he was sorry for those he may have let down. He was calm as the telecast got under way, although he seemed defensive when King asked if he had known that Heard was underage when the two met.
"I didn't know how old she was. It wasn't a big deal. I meet a lot of people," he said. "Larry, you're not going to retry the case tonight."
Reynolds also said he "was a little disappointed by how this was handled by some of my colleagues" in Congress. He said some representatives publicly demanded that he resign even though they knew he intended to quit.
"They were trying to pretend or show that they were more moral than Republicans," said Reynolds, who declined to talk to reporters when he left CNN's Los Angeles studios.
Reynolds, who is black, reiterated his claim that the case against him was motivated by racial bias. He added that his accuser not only had a lucrative book contract before the start of the trial but admitted to him that she could easily be swayed by his white critics.
"She would do anything that people with white skin and blond hair and blue eyes told her to - that's what she said," Reynolds told King.
Reynolds was convicted Aug. 22 of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, child pornography and obstruction of justice. He faces at least four years in prison at his Sept. 22 sentencing.
Even if Reynolds manages to extricate himself from his legal problems in an appeals court, his political career appears destroyed.
No prominent political backers have stood behind Reynolds. And three state senators and Jesse Jackson Jr., son of the veteran civil rights leader, are considering a run for the House from his 2nd Congressional District, which stretches across Chicago's south side and into the suburbs.
During the trial, prosecutors played for the jury tape recordings of sexually explicit phone conversations between Reynolds and Heard.