ABC 7 Exclusive: Jackson Jr. makes first public appearance in months

April 13, 2013 8:45:10 PM PDT
Disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. made his first public appearance in months when he sat alongside his father at Saturday morning's gathering of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

While Jackson Jr. did not speak, his attorney called on those gathered to call the judge in his case and plead for leniency before his June sentencing for misusing campaign funds.

ABC 7's cameras were the only ones inside the Rainbow PUSH headquarters and after Saturday's service, the Reverend Jesse Jackson talked spoke with ABC 7 one-on-one and said the family is hoping the judge has mercy on his son.

In a surprise move, no one was expecting, the embattled former congressman appeared in front of a crowd inside Rainbow PUSH.

His father took a moment to talk about his son and his upcoming sentencing.

"We've kept a very low profile, not much of a comment, we have not wanted to interfere in any way with the legal process," Rev. Jesse Jackson said. "Our family loves Jesse Jr. very much. We stand with him, we love him very much."

Then father and son embraced, sharing a personal moment with the crowd.

Jackson Jr. is hoping those that love him and his family, pled with the judge for leniency.

"Our judge needs to know, needs to understand, the character and the qualities of this extraordinary congressman," attorney C.K. Hoffler said. "This is the time to let the judge know how important he is to you."

The former congressman resigned in November. He and his wife, Sandy, pleaded guilty in February to federal charges for misusing $750,000 dollars in campaign funds.

Rev. Jackson says his son's health is getting stronger and he talked about how he feels as a father.

"It's not fear as much as it is pain because his health is issue A and it appears to be in a progressive line of recovery," he said. "God will bless him in serving in some way,"

ABC 7 political analyst Laura Washington believes Jackson Jr.'s appearance, in addition to a new hire to his legal team, could backfire.

"The judge, Robert Wilkins, has ties to the Jackson family. And he also has ties to Charles Ogletree, the new lawyer on the case. If he concedes to the family and reduces the sentences dramatically, it looks like he's playing favorites"," she said.

His constituents and supports say they still stand by their congressman.

"I was very excited to see him," said supporter Jerry Jackson. "I thank God that he could come forth and let people see him without people thinking he's hiding."

"He has not done nothing that no one other senator, congressman, or alderman have done," said supporter Andre Pierre Meekins.

Sentencing is set for June 28 and Jackson Jr. could face up to five years in prison.

Jesse Jackson Jr. Timeline

Jackson Jr. was first elected to congress in 1995.

On June 10, 2012 he took a medical leave but his office didn't disclose it until two weeks later. Then in July, word came that Jackson was being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

In August doctors reveal that Jackson had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In October, it is revealed investigators in Washington DC are probing the congressman's finances.

On November 21 Jackson resigned from congress.

On February 20, 2013, Jackson pleaded guilty to criminal charges against him and admitted using campaign funds to benefit himself and his wife.