Updated 08/14/13 – 1:45 p.m.
WASHINGTON (CBS) — Saying he used his campaign fund as “a personal piggy bank,” a federal judge sentenced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to 2 ½ years in prison for misusing $750,000 in campaign money to fund a lavish lifestyle.
And, despite defense pleas to spare his wife from also going to prison, Judge Amy Berman Jackson (who is not related to the couple) sentenced former Ald. Sandi Jackson to 12 months in prison.
The couple appeared stunned to learn both would be going to prison, with Jackson Jr. rocking in his chair in the courtroom, holding his head in his hands after the judge’s ruling. Sandi sat down, laid her head on the defense table, and sobbed after learning her fate.
As he left the courthouse, Jackson Jr. said he still believes in the power of forgiveness.
“I believe in the power of redemption. Today I manned up and tried to accept responsibility for the errors of my ways, and I still believe in the resurrection,” he said.
Sandi Jackson did not speak to reporters as they left court.
The judge said she would stagger the couple’s sentences so they are not behind bars at the same time. Initially, she said Sandi would have to go to prison first, but after seeing the couple’s stunned reaction, Judge Berman Jackson said she’d let the couple decide who should serve their prison term first.
Defense attorneys said Jackson Jr. would go to prison first, and although the judge said she thought it made more sense to have Sandi go to prison first, she agreed to have Jackson Jr. go first instead.
Jackson Jr. must report to prison by Nov. 1. Sandi will have 30 days to report to prison once Jackson Jr. is released.
In practical terms, Jackson Jr. could be set free after about 25 months after he reports to prison, given credit for good behavior. Because Sandi Jackson was not sentenced to more than a year, she cannot have her sentence reduced for good behavior, so must serve the full 12 months.
Judge Berman Jackson said she would recommend a federal prison camp in Alabama for Jackson Jr., or a federal prison hospital in North Carolina as a backup. Sandi Jackson’s attorneys asked the judge to recommend a prison camp for women in Florida. A final decision is up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Jackson Jr., 48, had pleaded guilty to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds to pay for his family’s lavish lifestyle. His wife Sandi, 49, has admitted to filing six years of false federal income tax returns, failing to report about $600,000 in income.
The judge called it “a very sad day, a difficult day” as she handed down the couple’s sentences.
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least 48 months in prison for Jesse Jackson Jr., and at least 18 months for Sandi Jackson. Defense attorneys were seeking 18 months for Jackson Jr. and probation for Sandi.