Katherine Skiba and Marina Villeneuve, Chicago Tribune, August 14, 2013
Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced today to 30 months behind bars and his wife, Sandi, got a year in prison for separate felonies involving the misspending of about $750,000 in campaign funds.
The Jacksons will be allowed to serve their sentences one at a time, with Jackson Jr. going first, based on the wishes of the family as expressed by Dan Webb, an attorney for Sandi Jackson.
Jackson Jr. will report to prison on or after Nov. 1, the judge said.
In addition to the 2.5 years in prison, Jackson Jr. was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Sandi Jackson was ordered to serve 12 months of supervised release following her prison term.
The judge emphasized that Sandi Jackson was sentenced to exactly 12 months, not the year-and-a-day sentence that some criminals get. Defendants sentenced to a year or less cannot qualify for time off for good behavior in prison. But those sentenced to a year and a day can qualify, which means they may end up serving only about 10 months. Under this rule, Sandi Jackson must serve the full year.
If Jackson Jr. earns time off for good behavior in prison, he would serve about 25.5 months.
Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is no relation to the defendants, addressed Jackson Jr. before announcing his term. She said people including his father had written to her urging that he be placed under supervision without going to prison.
She said that if she were to do so, it would appear as if there were two systems of justice: “one for the well-connected and one for everybody else.”
“I cannot do it,” she intoned. “And I will not do it.”
Jackson Jr. apologized for his crimes and expressed special regrets to his mother and father.
“Your honor, throughout this process I’ve asked the government and the court to hold me and only me accountable for my actions,” he said.
When Jackson Jr. spoke, his voice was firm except for the few times he wept openly and paused to dry his eyes with tissue, blow his nose and collect himself.
“I am the example for the whole Congress,” he said. “I understand that. I didn’t separate my personal life from my political activities, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Jackson Jr., 48, pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy count involving the $750,000. Sandi Jackson, 49, pleaded guilty to a related charge of failing to report about $600,000 in taxable income.
The Jacksons, both Democrats, pleaded guilty in February after a yearslong spending spree with campaign funds. Among the loot: a $43,000 Rolex watch, furs, vacations, two mounted elk heads and memorabilia ranging from a Michael Jackson fedora to an Eddie Van Halen guitar.
Jackson Jr. was in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2012. Sandi Jackson served on the City Council from 2007 until last January. Both resigned their positions leading up to their guilty pleas.
Jackson Jr. began a mysterious medical leave of absence from Congress in June 2012 and never returned. His office said initially that he was suffering from “exhaustion,” but his lawyers later said he was being treated for severe depression and bipolar disorder.