Jesse Jackson Jr. guilty plea expected; Former U.S. Rep. to appear in federal court today over funds
Carol Cratty, CNN
7:49 AM, Feb 20, 2013
8:23 AM, Feb 20, 2013
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr., once seen as a rising political star, is expected to appear in federal court in Washington on Wednesday to admit he used campaign funds for personal expenses and gifts.
His wife, former Chicago alderman Sandra Stevens Jackson, will have her own court appearance a few hours later, when she is expected to plead guilty to filing false tax returns.
On Friday, prosecutors filed charges against the couple in separate criminal informations, which are used when parties strike plea agreements.
The documents say the former Democratic congressman from Illinois misused about $750,000 dollars in campaign funds from August 2005 through approximately July 2012. Prosecutors charged him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. That offense carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but he could receive a lighter penalty.
According to court documents, Jackson's campaign credit cards were used for $582,772 in personal expenditures. Jackson's purchases included a gold-plated men's Rolex watch costing more than $43,000 and almost $10,000 in children's furniture.
As part of the plea agreement Jackson, 47, will have to forfeit the $750,000 in improperly used funds and assorted memorabilia prosecutors said he bought with campaign cash.
The items include two hats belonging to the late singer Michael Jackson costing more than $8,000, a $5,000 football signed by U.S. presidents and memorabilia involving the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and martial artist Bruce Lee.
Jackson issued a statement through his attorneys Friday saying, in part, "I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made."
Jackson's wife is not mentioned by name in the document outlining misuse of campaign funds.
But there are references to her as "Co-Conspirator 1," a former consultant and later the manager of Jackson's re-election campaign. According to the court documents, "Co-Conspirator 1" bought $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas and had them shipped from Beverly Hills, California, to Washington.
Sandra Jackson faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for one count of filing false tax returns from 2006 through 2011.
Jesse Jackson Jr. had served in Congress since 1995. His name came up during the investigation of former Governor Rod Blagojevich and allegations Blagojevich attempted to sell the Illinois Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. No charges were filed against Jackson, but the House Ethics Committee decided to look into whether Jackson or an associate offered to raise a large amount of money for Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson getting the Senate seat.
Jackson dropped out of sight last spring and his office later said he was being treated at the Mayo Clinic for mood disorder, depression and gastrointestinal problems. He was re-elected in November, but resigned a few weeks later.
His father, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, recently said his son was "taking his medication and handling his challenges."
Sandra Jackson resigned her position as a Chicago alderman in January.