CHICAGO (CBS) — Prosecutors called the case against Jesse and Sandi Jackson “perhaps the biggest campaign finance fraud case ever.”
But what happened in court was also extraordinary: A judge delaying one jail term until the other was finished.
And then another twist: Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave the couple a few minutes to decide who would go first.
Jesse Jackson had already asked to be first, but privately Sandi did want jail time hanging over her head either.
One of Sandi Jackson’s attorneys gave CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine a glimpse behind the scenes as the Jacksons made their choice to have the former congressman go first.
Sandi would stay with their two children until her husband’s sentence was complete–likely just over two years.
“She made a decision that for her to be there for as long as she could be there and immediately was going to be in their best interests and no part of her was going to do anything other than act in their interests,” said attorney Carolyn Gurland.
She made that decision just minutes after being sentenced to one year in prison.
She will also face another year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and $22,000 restitution for what the judge called “using campaign funds to support a lifestyle they couldn’t afford.”
As Jesse and Sandi Jackson arrived at the courthouse Wednesday morning, it appeared to some that while Jesse was bracing for the worst, Sandi was hoping for the best.
It didn’t work out that way. Sandi Jackson was hoping for probation.
“For her not to think that she would go to jail, to think the judge was going to give her probation?” said political consultant Delmarie Cobb. “I think that for too long they have just not been in reality.”
It had begun five years earlier, with allegations that Jackson Jr. emissaries had offered Rod Blagojevich millions to appoint him to President Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.
While Jackson was never charged, the resulting investigation ultimately caught Sandi.
“We weren’t ready for it,” said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller. “But it did come down, and the reason it did come down is when they found out about it during the investigation of [her husband]”
Now the question becomes, how does Sandi Jackson live her life, knowing she has a jail term to serve in about two years.
“I’ve never seen it before,” said Gurland. “I can’t begin to think how you’d spend every day waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“One way to deal with it, is shift the focus again as she just generally does to others, taking care of family, making some money, minimize disruptions in their social life.”
Sandi Jackson’s plea for probation was based on her 9 and 13 year-old children.
It was a plea blunted by the feds’ offer and the judge’s approval of staggered sentences, which will now send Jesse to jail late this year and Sandi early in 2016.