There was a time not long ago when Jesse Jackson Jr. would have been first in line to greet a sitting president arriving in Chicago. Those days are gone. As President Obama visited Chicago on Friday, Jackson and his wife were being formally charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and making false statements about his alleged crimes. Phil Rogers reports.
Federal officials filed charges Friday against Jesse Jackson Jr. after the former congressman reportedly signed a plea deal for allegedly improperly spending hundreds of thousands in campaign funds.
The paperwork was filed at the U.S District Courthouse in Washington. Jackson, who left the public eye last summer for treatment of bi-polar disorder and resigned from office in November, is not expected to make an appearance, but he offered a response in his first statement to the public in months.
“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties," Jackson said in the statement released by the attorneys representing him in the federal probe.
"Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made," he said. "To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right.”
Among the items that Jackson is accused of purchasing with campaign funds:
Ward Room reported last week that Jackson will plead guilty as part of his plea deal, and jail time would be in the hands of a federal judge who has not yet been assigned. Converting campaign contributions for personal use is strictly prohibited by federal law and opens Jackson up to “not more than 5 years” in prison.
Prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence for between 46 and 57 months plus fines, according to reports.
Jackson's wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, has also been charged with falsifying her tax returns and reporting less income than she made.
Sandi Jackson has pleaded guilty to the tax offense, according to her attorney Tom Kirsch. The single charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 3 years, but Kirsh said the plea agreement calls for significantly less time.
"Today, Sandi Jackson reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud," reads a statement from her attorneys. "Ms. Jackson has accepted responsibility for her conduct, is deeply sorry for her actions, and looks forward to putting this matter behind her and her family. She is thankful for the support of her family and friends during this very difficult time."
Per the reported plea deal for Jackson Jr., he must repay the government hundreds of thousands of dollars for items such as a $40,000 Rolex watch, travel expenses for a woman he described as a “social acquaintance” and furniture purchased for his home.
Sandi Jackson resigned last month from her elected position as Chicago’s 7th Ward alderman. For years she received a $5,000 a month check from her husband as his political consultant.
Jackson Jr., the son of famous civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, has been the subject of a federal investigation into potential misuse of campaign funds since around the time he left office to seek medical treatment on June 10, 2012.