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Jesse Jackson Jr. and wife abused $750,000 in campaign funds

By Natalia Hernandez
On March 4, 2013


Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., 47, and his wife, Sandi Jackson, 49, former Chicago alderman, have admitted to abusing more than $750,000 in campaign funds from 2005 to 2012.

"In perfect candor, your honor, I have no interest in wasting the taxpayers' time or money," said Jackson after waving his right to trial.

"(I am) guilty, your honor," Jackson responded to U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins while tearfully looking back at family members in the courtroom, including his father, potent political and cultural figure and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Jacksonhas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements - all felonies - and he will face prison time when sentenced June 28.

Although he has the right to argue for a sentence above or below 46 to 57 months, he will be ineligible for probation and submitted to a fine of about $10,000 to $100,000 under a plea deal with prosecutors.

Jackson's wife, Sandi, has also pleaded guilty to related tax charges. As part of her guilty plea, she has agreed to pay $168,000 in restitution and is scheduled for sentencing July 1 for a possible prison term of about 18 to 24 months.

The couple made fraudulent campaign and tax disclosures to cover up a rampant misuse of campaign funds on items such as memorabilia related to Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Lee; $43,350 on a men's Rolex watch; nearly $9,600 in children's furniture; $5,150 in cashmere clothing and furs; $17,000 on tobacco shops; $14,513 on dry cleaning; $5,814 on alcohol; $4,000 on a cruise; $243 at a Build-A-Bear Workshop; $60,000 on restaurants, nightclubs and lounges; $31,700 on airfare; $16,000 at sports clubs and lounge; $8,000 at grocery stores; and $6,000 at drugstores.

After an 18-year-long career in Congress and after becoming a field director for the National Rainbow Coalition and advising many of his father's presidential campaigns, Jesse Jackson Jr. has decided to admit to his long-standing disregard for his supporters and campaign devotees.

He was once the hope before anyone even knew about a young community organizer in Chicago named Barack Obama.

As years went on, Jackson seemed to succumb to the lavish nature of the infamous "Corrupt Chicago Politician," even hiring Judy Smith, a crisis management expert portrayed in the television show "Scandal" to deal with some of his many hiccups on the way down.

And there are more scandals. He was tainted by the gubernatorial scandal of Rod Blagojevich's failed attempt to sell the seat of former U.S. Senator Obama.

He underwent allegations of an extramarital affair with a Washington bikini model and waitress, which later drew attention to an ongoing criminal probe of his campaign fund.

He admitted himself to the Mayo Clinic for having bipolar disorder, which soon led to his November resignation from Congress.

Needless to say, the fall has truly been a spectacle of "reality star" proportions.

Yet on his day in court, amidst tears and failed attempts at stoic composure, he had one thing to say on his way out of court to the crowd of hungry reporters: "Tell everybody back home I'm sorry I let 'em down, OK?"

And with these words, our forgiving thoughts took pause.

Darius Montague, 22, sociology major simply stated, "It happens."

"People launder money, steal it, use it for personal benefit, but taking into perspective the amount of money people in power steal (in the billions) and get caught with, $750,000 doesn't seem so bad," said Montague.

Perhaps it does not.

Perhaps this is yet another politician, who has been caught between the lines of justice and corruption, lies of omission and words of trust.

"There will be another chapter in Jesse Jackson's life, a chapter that brings joy to the people who care about him," said Reid Weingarten, Jackson's attorney.

Perhaps that is the only thing that needs to be said because after all of his lies there can only be hope for a better tomorrow in a complex Chicago.

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