By Teresa Ambord
Former US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi – a former Chicago alderwoman – were back in court August 14, 2013, to be sentenced on charges of campaign fraud and tax fraud. Both Jacksons entered guilty pleas when they appeared in court last February, making no excuses for their actions, and instead apologizing to the court and the public. Charges included spending roughly $750,000 of campaign funds to buy personal items like a Rolex watch, furniture, furs, sports memorabilia, etc., and failing to report taxable income of about $600,000.
Their sentencing hearing was before federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation).
Both Jacksons wept in court as they waited for the bottom line. In the end, Jesse was sentenced to thirty months in prison plus three years of supervised release. If he earns time off for good behavior, he could end up serving about twenty-five months.
Jesse could've faced forty-six to fifty-seven months in prison and a fine of $10,000 to $100,000. Prosecutors pushed for more, asking for five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Assistant US Attorney Matt Graves said Jesse's crimes represented one of the largest cases of theft from a campaign treasury that had ever been prosecuted, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
Judge Jackson recommended he be placed in a federal prison camp in Alabama. The Chicago Tribune reports that such recommendations are merely advisory, and the final decision will rest with the Bureau of Prisons.
Humbled, Jesse told the court, "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."
As for Sandi, she was ordered to spend one year in prison followed by another year of supervised release. The judge made a point of saying this was a one-year sentence exactly, not the common one year and a day. Why is this significant? Because defendants who get one year or less, as Sandi did, can't qualify for time off for good behavior. In other words, Sandi will serve the full year. Previously she was looking at one to two years in prison.
Sandi may be able to serve her term in a federal correctional institution in Marianna, Florida, which is minimum security for female offenders.
She told the court, "I want to begin by apologizing first to my family, to my friends, my community, and my constituents for the actions that brought me here today." She admitted to causing disappointment in the community and putting her "family unit in peril."
The Jacksons will be allowed to serve their sentences one at a time, with Jesse going first.