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Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty in campaign spending case

By Frederic J. Frommer and Pete Yost

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:21 a.m. HST, Feb 20, 2013

WASHINGTON » Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., holding back tears, entered a guilty plea today in federal court to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces 46 to 57 months in prison under a plea deal with prosecutors.

Before entering the plea, Jackson told U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins, "I've never been more clear in my life" in his decision to plead guilty.

Later, when Wilkins asked if Jackson committed the acts outlined in court papers, the former congressman replied, "I did these things."

Jackson's father, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, watched the proceedings in the front row, hands folded, with no expression and virtually no movements.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 28.

Both the former Illinois congressman and his wife, Sandra, had agreed to plead guilty in deals with federal prosecutors. Jackson's guilty plea was to a conspiracy charge. His wife was due in court later on a charge of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011 that knowingly understated the income the couple received. The Jacksons were appearing separately before U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins.

Both Jackson and his wife face maximum penalties of several years in prison; he also faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures.

Jackson, 47, used campaign money to buy items including a $43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 worth of children's furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. His wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas, the court documents said.

When prosecutors charged the couple last Friday, the ex-congressman said he fully accepts the responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes he has made. Tom Kirsch, an attorney for Jackson's wife, said she has signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and would plead guilty to one tax count.

The conspiracy charge against the former congressman carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties. The charge against Sandra Jackson carries a maximum of three years in prison. However, one of her lawyers, Tom Kirsch, says the plea agreement "does not contemplate a sentence of that length." Sandra Jackson was a Chicago alderman before she resigned last month during the federal investigation.

In court papers filed against Jackson on Friday, prosecutors said that upon conviction he must forfeit $750,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars' worth of memorabilia items and furs. The memorabilia includes a football signed by U.S. presidents, a Michael Jackson fedora, and memorabilia of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Lee — all from a company called Antiquities of Nevada.

As the hearing for Jackson got under way today, newly filed court papers disclosed that the judge had offered to disqualify himself from handling the cases against Jackson and his wife.

As a Harvard Law School student, Wilkins said he had supported the presidential campaign of Jackson's father, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, and that as an attorney in 1999, Wilkins had been a guest on a show hosted by Jackson's father.

In the newly filed court papers, prosecutors and lawyers for both Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sandra Jackson said they were willing to proceed with the cases with Wilkins presiding. Judicial ethics require that a judge disqualify himself if his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

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serious wrote:
He will have plenty of familiar company from his fellow Illinois politicians. Crooks!! Will his Dad be next for having funds from his Rainbow Coalition paying for his love child?
on February 20,2013 | 06:22AM
allie wrote:
He always was a phoney. He lived off his father's legacy from the civil rights era.
on February 20,2013 | 09:40AM
pakeheat wrote:
He will be given a pardon from President Obama when he leaves office, no worries LOL.
on February 20,2013 | 06:48AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Jan. 2017 is way off. ...... Almost four years in prison for that crook ....not bad.
on February 20,2013 | 07:14AM
pakeheat wrote:
You may be right, for good behavior he might only stay less than a year, LOL.
on February 20,2013 | 09:45AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Looks like their parents spent too much time focusing on career advancement and not on morals or values.
on February 20,2013 | 07:03AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Jr.'s number one priority, .... must have bling. Wierd.
on February 20,2013 | 09:02AM
redneckMT wrote:
on February 20,2013 | 07:39AM
AhiPoke wrote:
The apple don't fall too far from the tree. His father is a known shakedown artist. Interesting that nowhere in this article does it describe which party he belongs to. Media bias?
on February 20,2013 | 07:48AM
allie wrote:
Tea party dude
on February 20,2013 | 09:40AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Really? OMG I had been mistakenly thinking he was a member of our president's party. My bad.
on February 20,2013 | 09:49AM
Ronin006 wrote:
One more Chicago gangster to be added to Obama’s list of people who will receive presidential pardons before he leaves office.
on February 20,2013 | 08:36AM
toomuchpilikia wrote:
I predict 90 days followed by a 5 year probation. He did not mean to do it!
on February 20,2013 | 08:46AM
Hawaiianbob wrote:
In Chicago they do it right. We have so much political people in jail from Illinois that they can run the state from prison. That is the norm for the politicians here in Chicago. That is why property tax is so high and sales tax is about 10%.
on February 20,2013 | 08:52AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Don't forget that Chicago is now the murder capital of the US.
on February 20,2013 | 09:47AM
krusha wrote:
Reminds me of a teenage kid who was given a credit card by their parents for the first time to use only for emergencies, then went amok with the spending instead... :)
on February 20,2013 | 08:56AM
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