A federal judge sentenced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to 30 months, or 2-and-a-half years, in prison for misuse of campaign funds today. His wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, was sentenced to 12 months for tax fraud.
The sentencing marks the end of one chapter of the Jacksons’ fall from grace.
The longtime congressman and the son of a famed civil rights leader may have been spared when a judge handed him a 2 and a half year prison sentence instead of prison time that could have been twice that.
“I still believe in the power of forgiveness and redemption,” Jackson said this morning outside a Washington D.C. courthouse. “I manned up and tried to accept responsibility for the errors of my ways and I still believe in the resurrection.”
Jackson left the federal courthouse with his future finally known. The 48-year- old will be trading in his Rolex watch, his two homes and other expensive items bought with $750,000 in campaign funds for an inmate number and a prison cell. The ex-congressman is to surrender to the bureau of prisons on November 1st.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, no relation to the defendants, called the Jackson family sentencing a “sad” day and a complicated case. The once powerful political couple, practically royalty in the African American community, reduced to the status of defendants by their own doing. The judge applauded the former congressman in court, citing his many political accomplishments over his 17 years on the Hill, yet she was quick to tell the husband and wife their crimes were knowing, organized, repeated and covered up.
In court Jackson Jr asked for leniency. With tears in his eyes and choking on every word he told the judge, “I know I let a lot of people down-most of all, my children.”
He also asked to be sent to a specific prison, one with some distance between he and the crime, even though it creates distance between he and his kids.
“ I ask for Alabama so I can be as far away from everybody as I can be for awhile,” he said.
Then his wife had her turn before the judge and wept continuously before the court. The ex-alderman and mother of two said, “This case has taken an enormous toll, as expected, but my heart breaks every day for the pain this has caused my babies.”
Before handing down a 12 month prison sentence to Mrs. Jackson, the judge made one thing clear to her saying, “It is not the court that put your children in this position. It is not the government that put your children in this position.”
Mr. Jackson received 2 and a half years of prison time, far less than the sentencing guidelines state.
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Paige has been covering the Rev Jesse Jackson since 1969. This tragic moment in their family history is a shock to the entire African American community who has turned to the elder Jackson in times of trouble. Now that his son is headed to prison, Rev Jackson is trying to make sense of the environment he himself created right under his own roof.
“I’ve had to raise many questions to myself about (if) I confused success with sickness. Jesse’s been driven to succeed to be effective,” Rev Jackson said.
Jesse Jackson Jr is ordered to surrender in November if he can get his financial obligations in order. He owes $750,000 to the government as part of his plea deal. Sandi Jackson will surrender 30 days after the ex-congressman re-enters society to serve her sentence. She is requesting time in a Florida prison.