CHICAGO — Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago) and his wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson, are expected to plead guilty to charges leveled against them by federal prosecutors Friday.
Jackson Jr. misused more than $750,000 in campaign funds for purchases ranging from a fur cape to a $43,000 gold Rolex watch to Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson memorabilia, according to federal charges filed Friday.
His wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson, was also charged Friday — hit with allegations she cheated on her taxes.
Prosecutors alleged Jackson Jr., the son of the famed civil rights icon, attempted to enrich himself and a co-conspirator by misusing approximately $750,000 in campaign funds. A Department of Justice spokesman would not confirm Sandi Jackson is the co-conspirator.
The charges include allegations that Jackson Jr. filed false Federal Election Commission campaign documents that included the campaign funds, as well as the receipt of about $28,500 in undisclosed gifts and loans.
The government alleges Jackson Jr. misused campaign funds for:
- More than $9,500 worth of children's furniture;
- $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas, including a mink reversible parka and a black and red cashmere cape from Edwards-Lowell Furrier and Fur Shop in Beverly Hills, Calif.;
- About $10,000 worth of Bruce Lee memorabilia;
- About $11,000 worth of Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia;
- About $28,000 worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a fedora and a "Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar" and;
- A $5,000 football signed by U.S. presidents.
The charges are the nadir of a tumultuous year for the Jacksons, once a political power couple with aspirations for higher offices. Jackson Jr. dropped out of public view last summer and surfaced at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, being treated for bipolar disorder.
After winning reelection in November despite the federal investigation and despite not campaigning, the 47-year-old resigned from Congress soon after the election. Sandi Jackson, also under federal scrutiny, later quit her job as the city's 7th Ward alderman.
While there was speculation the feds wouldn't charge a husband and wife — and potentially leave their young kids with two locked-up parents — prosecutors lowered the boom Friday and took down the Jacksons.
Jackson Jr. could face up to five years in prison as part of a reported plea deal. It's unclear if Sandi Jackson would have to serve time in prison if convicted. Sandi Jackson is also expected to plead guilty to a tax offense, her lawyers said.
"Today, Sandi Jackson reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud," according to her attorneys, Dan Webb and Tom Kirsch.
"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."
The charges against Jackson Jr. also included conspiracy, making false statements, and mail and wire fraud.
Jackson Jr. released a statement saying: “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. Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made.
"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.”
Jackson Jr. could face as many as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His wife could face as many as three years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.
In spite of Jackson Jr.'s reported efforts to shield his wife from the fallout, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C, charged Sandi Jackson with cheating on her taxes and shortchanging the IRS.
According to documents released Friday afternoon by the U.S. Attorney's office, Sandi Jackson underreported her income and that of her husband for 2006 through 2011.
By joint filing their income taxes, husband and wife were both complicit in the crime, according to the feds.
After Michael Jackson's death in 2009, Jackson Jr. remembered the pop star on the floor of the House.
"I come to the floor today on behalf of a generation to thank God for letting all of us live in his generation and in his era," he said.