Reporting Mike Puccinelli
CHICAGO (CBS) – CBS 2 reported exclusively Friday night that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. might step down before the end of the year as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors investigating possible misuse of campaign funds.
So, on Saturday, CBS 2′s Mike Puccinelli went to Rainbow/PUSH headquarters to try to get some answers from the congressman’s father, Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The elder Jackson was talking about jobs at the Saturday morning forum of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, but he wasn’t talking about the federal investigation centered around his namesake.
And, although workers were spotted inside Congressman Jackson’s district office in the South Shore neighborhood, no one answered the door when CBS 2 rang the bell Saturday afternoon.
There has been no official response from the Jackson family to the CBS 2 report that Congressman Jackson has been negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reported Friday night that high-powered defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Dan Webb was negotiating a tentative deal with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
Under terms of the deal, Jackson would resign for health reasons, plead guilty to misusing campaign funds and possibly do jail time. He’d have to repay any campaign funds that were converted for personal use, and serve at least some jail time.
Though some of Jackson’s constituents in the 2nd District said it’s time for Jackson to go and someone else to take his seat on Capitol Hill, others continued to stand by the longtime congressman, despite his legal troubles, and his five-month absence from Congress as he undergoes treatment for bipolar disorder.
Jerome Nicholson voted for Jackson on Tuesday, and said he’d be upset if the congressman steps down.
“I would be very disappointed, because since he got here, things have been changed over here in the South Shore area,” 2nd District voter Jerome Nicholson said.
Marian Pyles also voted for Jackson and said she’d do so again, despite his health problems.
“He is dealing with what he is dealing with, and he has no control over it,” she said. “I think that’s very serious, and he can’t control that.”
But not everyone in Jackson’s district was in such a forgiving state of mind.
Joan Asante said she didn’t vote for Jackson on Tuesday, “because what is he doing? He’s not doing anything. The man is hiding behind being sick. I feel sorry for him, but if he get himself in some trouble, hiding in that clinic ain’t going to get him out of it.”
But Pyles said bipolar disorder is misunderstood, and that’s why she understands the congressman’s absence.
“Mood disorder is nothing to play around with, and hopefully he’ll get the help he needs,” she said.
But Asante said Jackson brought his predicament upon himself.
“Of course his health has gotten that bad, because he’s scared to death. He got a lot of things going on,” she said. “We need somebody else to step up. If he can’t do his job, somebody else needs to do it.”
She said Jackson would be smart to work out a plea bargain with federal prosecutors.
“He better. He better figure it out before they figure it out. He going to jail for a long time if he don’t figure it out. It’s time to come out. Come out, stop hiding,” she said.
If Jackson steps down, a special election would have to be held to replace him in Congress.
If he resigns, the declared reason would be his health. Sources have said his condition has worsened to such a degree that it’s unlikely he’d be able to return to Congress.