By Teresa Ambord
One publication describes them as a "power couple," but those days may be over for Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Jackson Jr., at least for now. On February 20, both Jacksons entered guilty pleas in the separate charges brought against them. Jesse is a former congressman for Illinois and the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. His wife, Sandra, is a former alderwoman for Chicago.
Here's what prosecutors say happened:
In mid-February, criminal charges were filed against Jesse for misuse of campaign funds and against Sandra for tax fraud. Both Jacksons appeared before US District Judge Robert L. Wilkins in separate hearings and plead guilty to charges on February 20.
The Jacksons siphoned off $750,000 from the campaign war chest for personal purposes from 2005 to 2012.
According to court documents, Jesse misused campaign credit cards to pay personal expenses totaling about $580,000, including $60,857.04 at restaurants and lounges and $31,700.79 for airfare. Additional personal expenditures include:
- $43,350 for a gold-plated men's Rolex watch
- $9,588 for children's furniture
- $14,513 for dry cleaning
- $5,814 for alcohol
- $16,059 spent at sports clubs and lounges
- $5,150 for fur capes and parkas (actually purchased by Sandra)
- $8,000 for two hats belonging to late singer Michael Jackson
- $17,163 spent at tobacco shops
- $5,000 for a football signed by US presidents
The plea deal requires that he surrender the money and the items he purchased.
Jesse made a statement through his attorneys: "I offer no excuses for my conduct, and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made." When Judge Wilkins asked for Jesse's plea, he responded, "Guilty, your honor. I misled the American people."
Jesse has served as a congressman from Illinois since 1995. Last November, he was reelected but resigned just days later. Earlier in the year, he dropped out of the public eye for an extended time while he was treated at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder.
Sandra is referred to in court documents as a "co-conspirator" and as manager of her husband's reelection campaign. She's accused of filing false tax returns for herself and her husband from 2006 through 2011. And, as noted above, court documents show she spent $5,500 of campaign funds to buy fur parkas and capes.
Court documents also show that during the probe into their personal finances, both Jacksons may have attempted to conceal some of the items they bought with campaign funds by shipping them to other addresses. This includes the furs purchased by Sandra and the Rolex watch purchased by Jesse.
Now that they've entered guilty pleas, they await sentencing June 28. Sandra is looking at one to two years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $40,000. Under a plea deal with prosecutors, Jesse faces forty-six to fifty-seven months in prison and a fine of $10,000 to $100,000. However, prosecutors reserve the right to argue for a fine of $250,000 and a maximum sentence of five years in prison.