CHICAGO (CBS) — Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was formally charged Friday with improperly using about $750,000 in campaign money for personal use, including a Rolex watch, trips and meals with a mistress.
Jackson has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a prison sentence of less than five years, sources have told CBS 2.
Meanwhile, Jackson’s wife, Sandi, was charged with tax fraud, for filing false joint tax returns. She has agreed to plead guilty to that charge, her attorney said Friday.
A source told Newsradio that the case against Sandi Jackson was wrapped up months ago, but negotiations were dragging on the former congressman’s case and the source said both were demanding a say in the handoff of their respective offices.
The charging document details other purchases allegedly made using campaign cash, including: Michael Jackson memorabilia, Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, Bruce Lee memorabilia and an Eddie Van Halen guitar.
The thousands of dollars of Michael Jackson memorabilia includes a fedora bought for $4,600. A Michael Jackson and Van Halen guitar was purchased for $4,000. He also bought a football signed by American presidents for $5,000, according to the document.
Formally, Jackson was charged with one count of conspiracy to use campaign money for his personal use. He also is accused of making false statements along with wire fraud and mail fraud.
In a statement, Jackson said: “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 my hope that I am remembered for things that I did right.”
According to published reports, prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence of between 46 and 57 months for Jackson Jr.
The filing at the U.S District Courthouse in Washington did not require a court appearance by either Jackson. The plea agreements are submitted to the court clerk and assigned to judges, who will set initial court dates.
Jackson Jr. agreed to plead guilty and let a federal judge determine his punishment, which according to the agreement could range from probation to five years in prison.
Jackson’s deal calls for him to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars spent for things like travel and meals with a mistress and a $43,000 men’s Rolex watch he bought for himself. Jackson’s resignation from Congress was also part of the deal.
Jackson also allegedly spent campaign money to purchase $9,500 worth of children’s furniture. He also bought $5,100 worth of fur capes and parkas from Beverly Hills, Calif., prosecutors said. The federal government wants all of those items returned.
Jackson’s pleading guilty to using campaign funds for personal expenses exposed Sandi Jackson, who served as his campaign manager, to tax-fraud charges.
The congressman’s guilty plea says Sandi knew about improper purchases that apparently include breakfast snacks, cosmetic services, even beds purchased for campaign workers.
Sandi Jackson is expected to accept responsibility for some things because, as the congressman’s campaign manager, she signed the tax returns.
Gov. Quinn has been reluctant to criticize the Jacksons and he remains reluctant, preferring to simply say it is sad.
“I think it is very sad anytime someone violates their oath of office, they have a duty to the people to do things right all the time and anyone who violates their oath it is a major, major sad day for our state,” said Quinn.
Jackson, who became a congressman in 1995, is the son of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. The younger Jackson resigned after winning re-election in November and after disappearing from public view while he was treated for bipolar disorder at Mayo Clinic.
Sandi Jackson was a Chicago alderman until she resigned last month. The couple has two children.
Some of Jackson Jr.’s former constituents expressed disappointment Friday.
“I thought he could do much better than ending up this way, it’s really sad,” Pauline Kabre said.