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Jesse Jackson Jr. talks in Chicago after divorce hearing

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Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. returned to Chicago to attend a hearing Monday in what has become a bitter divorce case between a once high-powered couple. (WLS)

Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. returned to Chicago to attend a hearing Monday in what has become a bitter divorce case between a once high-powered couple.

Jackson Jr. says he wants to make sure he protects his children as the divorce battle between he and his estranged wife Sandi Jackson continues.

"I'm very protective of my children, that what I know, that which I discovered, I do not want to make available to the public," he said.

It's the first time he's spoken publicly since his release from federal prison for misuse of campaign funds.

"I don't want to see some of it in the grocery stand line in a tabloid," he said.

Jackson defended his attempts to subpoena former Chicago police superintendent Garry Mccarthy and two other men about any contact they had with the former alderman, saying his 13-year-old son and the boy's older sister both know what's been going on.

"It's not my psychology that is at stake. it is the psychology of a 17-year-old daughter who has been aware of the issues for a number of years," Jackson Jr. said.

Attorneys for Sandi Jackson have sought to quash the subpoenas. The judge in the Cook County case halted the motion while courts decide where the couple will get divorced.

A candid Jackson also said he's earned the nearly $139,000 a year in disability payments he gets from the federal government because of his bipolar disorder and depression.

And while Jesse Jackson Jr. says he feels fantastic, he says he still has good and bad days as he tries to put what he calls a tragic episode in his personal life behind him.

"Because of who I am, I embrace the experience. I don't get to run from it or hide from it - because everybody knows who I am," he said.

Despite being nearly bankrupt after paying restitution following his conviction, he said he hopes to help others who were incarcerated at getting a second chance at life.

The next court hearing on the divorce case in Cook County is schedule for April 3.

Lawyers for the former congressman argue that a premarital agreement and other factors mean the divorce case has to be heard in Illinois.

Jackson Jr. filed for divorce while former alderman Sandi Jackson was still in federal prison last fall. Sandi Jackson was not in court Monday at the Daley Center.

Jackson Jr.'s lawyers said Sandi Jackson committed "numerous acts" in Illinois that "led to the irretrievable breakdown of the parties' marriage."

"It's my understanding on information and belief that the acts that we have alleged give rise to personal jurisdiction over Ms. Jackson occurred during his convalescence, investigation and/or incarceration," said Brendan Hammer, Jackson Jr.'s attorney.
Jackson Jr. filed for dissolution of marriage in Cook County in December, citing irreconcilable differences. Lawyers for Sandi Jackson are seeking to have Jackson Jr.'s divorce filing dismissed so that a judge in Washington D.C. -- where the 53-year-old mother filed for divorce in November -- can handle the matter.

"I don't know what Mr. Jackson believes and I'm not prepared to speak to that particular issue," Hammer said.

Hammer would not give any specifics or examples of what alleged acts he or his client were talking about. Neither would Sandi Jackson's attorney, who would only confirm a March 8 status hearing in Chicago and the start of discovery and depositions as both sides spar over if the case should stay in Illinois.

Attorneys for Jackson Jr. said he has subpoenaed emails, text messages and call records from his wife of 25 years.

Jesse Jr. and Sandi Jackson both pleaded guilty in August of 2013 to crimes stemming for a political corruption investigation. The former Chicago alderman wants full custody of their two children, ages 16 and 13, as well as spousal and child support. Jackson Jr. wants to have his kids live with him.

In criminal court, an attorney for Jackson Jr. is asking that he be allowed to end supervised release early after his conviction.

Jackson, son the civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, was given a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal items. Attorney John Colette wrote in a court filing Friday that Jackson has now successfully completed approximately 18 months of supervised release, about half of what he was ordered to complete.

The filing in federal court in Washington says that Jackson has "maintained a positive and cooperative relationship with his probation officer and has abided by all terms and conditions of his supervised release."

Colette wrote that studies have shown that shortening the amount of time "compliant offenders" spend on supervised release doesn't hurt public safety.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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