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South Shore React: Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sandi 'Should Have Gotten More'

By Darryl Holliday | August 14, 2013 12:50pm | Updated on August 14, 2013 4:30pm
 Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi, are being sentenced Wednesday on federal charges.
Sentencing Day for Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr.
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SOUTH SHORE —  Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi, couldn't avoid prison time Wednesday when a federal judge ordered the former South Shore power couple to spend time behind bars for misspending campaign cash.

But for some in the South Shore neighborhood they once represented and lived in, the sentences handed down in a Washington, D.C., courtroom weren't enough.

Lenore Lindsey, the owner of Give Me Some Sugah bakery at 2234 E. 71st Street, said 30 months for Jesse Jackson Jr., the first-born son of the famed Civil Rights icon, was "lenient."

"It's a fair amount of time, but I'm not sure it's long enough for him to learn anything," Lindsey said, adding that Jackson Jr. still seems like he thinks he's being "put upon or discriminated against somehow."

Sandi Jackson, who pleaded guilty to tax charges related to the lavish spending of Jackson Jr.'s campaign money, was sentenced to one year in federal prison. She will serve her sentence after her husband finishes his. They are raising two children.

At B. Selfish Salon & Barber at 2300 E. 71st Street, barber Ronald Fields and shoeshine man Elight Starling thought the Jacksons got off easy.

"They should've gotten more, 'cause it was wrong what they did, and then they got caught too!" Starling said, not buying any talk of Jackson Jr. being "put upon."

"That's what all the robbers say: 'I got railroaded!' You got caught, homey," Starling said.

Said Fields: "It looks like they get special treatment."

"Yeah!" replied Starling. "If you or I did it it'd be 25 to life! We'd get the whole sentence."

Prosecutors had recommended that Jackson Jr. get four years in prison and his wife get 18 months on federal corruption charges. The judge did not stray far from those requests.

James Lindsey, a contractor in South Shore, thought Jackson Jr. should have gotten five years. His wife should have gotten two or three, he said.

"I think they got off light," he said.

Both Jesse Jr. and Sandi wept in court before hearing their sentences, according to reports.

Leaving the courthouse, Jackson Jr. said he "manned up."

"I still believe in the power of forgiveness," he told reporters. "I believe in the power of redemption. Today, I manned up and I tried to accept responsibility for the errors of my ways. And I still believe in the resurrection."

Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds for personal use — including a laundry list of lavish and even bizarre items, including a fur cape, a $43,000 gold Rolex watch and Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson memorabilia.

Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty to tax fraud for failing to report $600,000 on her tax returns.

According to documents released by prosecutors, Sandi Jackson underreported her income and that of her husband from 2006 through 2011.

By filing joint income tax returns, husband and wife were both complicit in the crime, according to the feds.

Jackson Jr.'s defense team filed a number of letters from family members and friends pleading for lenience. Congressional colleagues including Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) wrote on his behalf, citing his character and accomplishments. Many cited Jackson Jr.'s need for mental health treatment.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. cited his son's efforts to build a water tower for constituents, saving hospitals and working to end the civil war in Liberia.

"I am not sure at what point Jesse Jr. began to foil his own ambitions, whether the depression set in, whether the duodenal bariatric surgery...or whether the bi-polar disorder fit into the trajectory" Jackson Sr. wrote, pleading for probation.

Jackson Jr.'s mother, Jacqueline, asked Judge Amy Berman-Jackson to "consider a new approach for  handling non-violent offenders," as a way to mold "a more enlightened system of justice."

"Please consider community service and continue mental health treatments for Junior instead of prison," wrote Jan Camps Coleman, who described the former congressman as a "lifelong" friend.

In his plea agreement, Jackson Jr. acknowledged misspending the campaign money to buy a host of items with the cash, including:

• $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas, including a mink reversible parka and a black and red cashmere cape from Edwards-Lowell Furs 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.

Sandi Jackson resigned as alderman of the South Side's 7th Ward in January.

Jackson Jr. easily won re-election in November, despite never campaigning and disappearing from Washington, citing a gastrointestinal problem. He later revealed treatment for bipolar depression. He stepped down from his seat shortly after his re-election. Robin Kelly won his 2nd Congressional District seat in a special election in April.