WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife Sandra Jackson pleaded guilty on Wednesday to felony charges involving misuse of more than $750,000 in campaign money on personal spending.
When District Judge Robert Wilkins questioned Jackson on his intention to waive his right to a jury trial, Jackson replied, “The indictment from the government is an accurate statement about my…mistakes.”
“With perfect candor,” he said, “I have no interest in wasting the taxpayers’ time or their money.”
A solemn, soft-spoken Jackson dabbed his eyes as he proclaimed his guilty plea to Wilkins, who set sentencing for June 28.
The maximum sentence for Jackson’s crime is five years, but the plea bargain will likely lessen any jail time.. His wife, Sandra, in a separate appearance before the same judge, pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. The former Chicago alderman’s felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 3 years.
Jackson, 47, served Illinois’ 2nd district, which includes parts of Chicago, for 17 years, beginning in 1995. He resigned in November 2012 after word surfaced of the federal investigation that led to his indictment. Early in 2012, he was hospitalized in Minnesota for bipolar disorder.
After the hearing, Jackson’s attorney Reid Weingarten said, “It turns out that Jesse has serious health issues.”
“Those health issues are directly related to his present predicament,” he said. “That’s not an excuse, that’s just a fact.”
Prosecutors charged Jackson with conspiracy for mail fraud, wire fraud and forging false accounts with his wife.
The U.S. attorneys accused the Jacksons of laundering $750,000 to buy luxury items such as a Rolex watch, cashmere and fur clothing, children’s furniture and memorabilia of celebrities like Michael Jackson and Bruce Lee, as well as civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
In addition to prison time, Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sandra Jackson could face up to $100,000 and $40,000 respectively in fines.
Jackson’s father, activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., attended the plea agreement hearing along with friends and family that filled more than three rows of the courtroom. After the hearing, Jackson family members declined to take questions from reporters.
Jesse Jr. and Sandra Jackson have been married for more than 20 years, and have two young children, a 9-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. When deciding the terms of Jackson’s release, Judge Wilkins allowed him to travel between Washington, DC and Chicago, where Jackson has two permanent homes.
Gideon Resnick contributed reporting.