Jesse Jackson Jr., wife, plead guilty

Feb. 20, 2013 at 4:42 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom in Washington Wednesday to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds.

The 47-year-old son of civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. entered a negotiated plea of guilty on one felony count of conspiracy to commit false statements, wire fraud and mail fraud and could be sentenced to 46 to 57 months in federal prison on June 28.

"For years I lived off my campaign," Jackson told U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins. "I used money that should have been for campaign purposes for personal purposes. I have no interest in wasting the taxpayers' time or their money.

"I'm guilty, your honor," he said wiping away tears with a tissue.

Wednesday afternoon, his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, 49, pleaded guilty plea to federal tax fraud charges, most recently for tax year 2011. The former political power couple had reached plea bargains with prosecutors, WLS-TV, Chicago, reported. They left the courtroom holding hands.

Jackson and his wife ignored shouted questions from reporters at they entered the U.S. Courthouse Wednesday morning. A short time later, his father, mother, brothers and other family members walked in the front of the courthouse and sat in the front row.

Jackson Jr. was accused of spending more than $750,000 in campaign funds on entertainment and civil rights memorabilia of the late pop singer Michael Jackson, actor Bruce Lee and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., $9,600 in children's furniture, $60,857 at restaurants, nightclubs and lounges, $14,513 on dry cleaning, and thousands on luxury items including flat-screen televisions, health club dues, mounted elk heads, cashmere clothing, mink capes, fur coats and a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Sandi Jackson was accused of filing fraudulent joint tax returns for at least six years.

"We are hopeful and we expect there will be fairness in the [sentencing] process," said Jesse Jackson's attorney, Reid Weingarten.

Sandi Jackson was elected twice as alderman of Chicago's 7th Ward even though the couple lived at their Washington townhouse much of the time.

Jackson, who took a leave of absence from Congress last June for treatment of bipolar disorder, was expected to be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands in restitution, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said. Sandi Jackson could receive up to three years.

Elected in 1995 at age 30, Jackson resigned from the House of Representatives in November after 17 years representing Illinois' 2nd Congressional District. His wife resigned as alderman in January.

The couple have a 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

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