I-Team: Ex- Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., wife, Sandi, charged in federal complaints, will plead guilty

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. right and his wife Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson during inaugural ceremonies for Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel Monday, May 16, 2011 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

February 16, 2013 7:19:30 AM PST
Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, were both charged in federal complaints Friday.

The once bright star over Chicago that was Jesse Jackson Jr.'s career officially fell from the political heavens at 2:55 pm on Friday, February 15, 2013.

After years of being under a federal microscope and months after he vanished from Congress and then resigned, Jackson Jr. was named in federal charges on Friday of federal conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. The charges are detailed in papers filed at the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington, D.C., where the investigation was based.

His wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson (7th Ward) is also charged in a separate corruption complaint of filing false tax returns.

Defense attorneys say they have signed plea deals.

According to his attorneys, former Rep. Jackson admits conspiring with his wife to funnel $750,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. The illegal spending spree by the Jacksons financed extensive renovations to the couple's DuPont Circle townhome in Washington, fur coats, and other luxury goods including a $43,000 Rolex wristwatch and numerous pieces of Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jackson and Bruce Lee memorabilia.

"What we see in these documents is an itemized list and it is not a coincidence some of the things you see in the information are extreme, things that couldn't possibly be attributable to running for office or a campaign," Jeff Cramer, former federal prosecutor, said.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, sources say prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence for Mr. Jackson of just less than 4 to 5 years, a fine of between $10,000 and $100,000 and repayment of some of the misused $750,000 in campaign money.

In a written statement via his Washington attorneys, which oddly arrived before the release of the complaint, Jackson Jr. said:

"Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties. Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made. To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right."

As for Sandi Jackson, filing a false tax return carries a maximum three-year sentence. However, her attorney does not expect she'll get anywhere near that.

Dan Webb and Tom Kirsch, attorneys for Sandi Jackson, issued the following statement:

"Today, Sandi Jackson reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud. Ms. Jackson has accepted responsibility for her conduct, is deeply sorry for her actions, and looks forward to putting this matter behind her and her family. She is thankful for the support of her family and friends during this very difficult time."

According to the charge: she reported "substantially less than the amount of income she and her husband received".

"Sandi's charge has to be part of a more global deal, it has to be something that they agreed to with the government, that the government would charge her with a tax charge, not corruption, in exchange for a plea agreement in his case," former federal prosecutor Ronald Safer said.

Mr. Jackson resigned from Congress on November 21, 2012, citing personal health issues. Earlier in June, He had taken a leave of absence from Congress and announced he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) suggested that much of Jackson's behavior may be seated in his mental health.

"If you were thinking logically, rationally, you just wouldn't do that. I mean it's hard to imagine," Davis said.

The 47-year old had been under federal investigation for months. He made reference to that investigation in his resignation letter.

"During this journey I have made my share of mistakes. I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators and accept responsibility for my mistakes," he wrote.

Sandi Jackson, resigned from the Chicago City Council in January 2012.

"You cannot imagine how someone with such a promising future would make such choices but he did and they are stark choices and they are disappointing," Safer said.