Story Summary

Jesse Jackson Jr., wife Sandi plead guilty to federal charges

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.

His wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, was sentenced to 12 months for tax fraud.

In late November 2012, Jackson Jr. resigned from his Illinois Congressional seat in the second district. In January, Sandi Jackson stepped down from her position at Chicago’s 7th Ward alderman.

Both pleaded guilty in February.

On October 29, Jesse Jackson Jr. entered a minimum security prison in North Carolina to begin serving his sentence.

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Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s  guitar signed by Michael Jackson & Eddie Van Halen was set to be part of Tuesday’s auction of his illegally obtained items, but no more, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Spokesperson Lynzey Donahue said the item was removed after “an Issue came up about the authenticity” of the item, which at $525, was set to have the highest opening bid of any item in the auction.

Other items forfeited by Jackson are still available, including fur coats and capes,as well as Bruce Lee-autographed memorabilia.

The FBI agents who investigated Jesse Jackson Jr.  say the disgraced ex-congressman sent his lawyer to them, looking for a plea deal, while they were still investigating the case.

According to the agents, both Jackson and his wife Sandi expressed early interest in cooperating to avoid long jail sentences.

Based on interviews and records of about 3100 transactions, the agents say they had a strong case against the couple, who pleaded guilty to misuse of about $750,000 dollars in campaign funds.

For more, log on to Chicago Tribune

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.

Chicago voters react to Jacksons’ sentencing

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.

His wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, was sentenced to 12 months for tax fraud. Judge Amy Berman Jackson also ordered her to pay $22,000 in restitution, which is the amount she spent from her campaign as alderman.

The judge will allow Sandi to serve her sentence after Jesse completes his sentence. Sandi is to surrender 30 days after Jesse is released from a facility.

The judge didn’t agree with this but she said she is doing it to “accommodate” the family.

Sandi sentenced: “I stand before you today asking for mercy”

Before Sandi’s sentence was handed down, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that even if Sandi didn’t know everything her husband was doing, she spent $22,000 from her aldermanic campaign fund on bedding,  spas and shoes.

Sandi also read a short statement in court: “I grieve everyday…over the mistakes… I stand before you today asking for mercy.”

In February, Sandi pleaded guilty to tax fraud. She stepped down from her 7th Ward Alderman position in January.

Judge to Jesse Jackson Jr: People say you’re “guilty of bad acts but you are not a bad man”

“This is a very sad day and a difficult case,” said Judge Amy Berman Jackson before she handed Jesse Jackson Jr.’s sentence down. She said she finds he is “genuinely committed”  to his work in Congress. But, she said he wrote checks and credit charges more than 3,000 times.

Talking about Jackson’s illness, she said “this disorder can not begin to explain” the multiple purchases.

“You are a member of Congress who never missed a vote,” the judge said, adding that she received letters from people implying Jackson is “guilty of bad acts but you are not a bad man.”

“But as a public official you are supposed to live up to a higher standard of integrity,” she said.

During his sentencing hearing, Jackson addressed the court and admitted fault:  “I misled the American people; I misled the House of Representatives;  I misled the media…I was wrong. I don’t fault anyone.”

The judge also ruled that Jackson does not have to pay restitution to his former campaign because it is now defunct.

In February, the 48-year-old pleaded guilty to using $750,000 of his campaign money for personal expenses—in many cases, on extravagant items such as a Rolex watch and Michael Jackson memorabilia. He resigned from Congress in November after 17 years in office.

–WGN-TV Producer Kelly Barnicle contributed to this report.

Former Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. spoke to the media after he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the misue of campaign funds.

Jesse Jackson Sr. reacts to son’s prison sentence. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to misuse of campaign funds.

WGN’s Julie Unruh from inside the courtroom of Jesse Jackson Jr. sentencing

Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. cried and admitted fault when addressing the court during his sentencing hearing Wednesday.

“Throughout this process, I asked the court to hold me and only me accountable for my actions.  I misled the American people; I misled the House of Representatives;  I misled the media…I was wrong. I don’t fault anyone.”

“I want to apologize to my dad and to my mother,” he continued, and started to choke up.

“I am the example for the whole Congress. I take responsibility for my actions,” Jackson said. “I know I let a lot of people down because of my conduct…most of all my children.”

At this point, Jackson began breaking down and crying.

“So I ask for Alabama so I can be as far away from everybody for a while so I can be,” Jackson said in regards to his prison preference.

“I hope our children will be old enough to bare the pain I have caused,” he continued. “I certainly don’t want the IRS harassing my family while I’m away, so if I could pay them first.”

Jackson thanked the court after he finished speaking.

Prior to this statement, Jackson’s defense attorney Reid Weingarten asked the judge to consider a prison sentence of 18 months.

Weingarten has said Jackson “adores” his children and wants to come home as soon as possible.

He added that “there is fragility here” referring to Jackson’s mental state and says he would prefer a camp and to be treated by a psychiatrist, stating that the Bureau of prisons isn’t the best place for him.

“There is not even an agreement among his doctors on what he suffers from,” said prosecutor Matt Graves. “We don’t even know what his medical needs precisely are.”

He then said not disputing his diagnosis just the evidence put before the court.

“The defendant does not deserve credit for doing his job as a congressman.  That was his job!” Graves said. “The waste is tragic but the crime is serious.”

Weingarten also asked that Jackson serve his time first, then his wife Sandi.

The former Chicago alderman pleaded guilty to tax fraud and will also be sentenced Wednesday.

– Reporting by WGN-TV Producer Kelly Barnicle

Sandi Jackson read a short statement during her sentencing hearing Wednesday.

“I am a little nervous,” she said, crying. “I want to begin by apologizing first to my family, to my friends and to the community for my actions that have brought me here today.”

“I grieve everyday…over the mistakes,” she said. “I stand before you today asking for mercy.”

“This case has taken an enormous toll on me, which is to be expected. But my heart breaks everyday with the pain that this has caused my babies,” she said.

Jackson tearfully concluded her statement by thanking the court. Jackson pleaded guilty to tax fraud, and her husband Jesse Jackson Jr. will also be sentenced Wednesday for misuse of campaign funds.

Prosecutor Matt Graves argued for a stiff sentence for Sandi, saying that she is not “another victim of her husbands crimes.” Graves said this is about  “her independent criminal conduct.”

“The fact is she stole,” he added.

–Reporting by WGN Producer Kelly Barnicle