Jesse Jackson Jr. -- former congressman and son of civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson -- was sentenced to 30 months behind bars on Wednesday for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own campaign fund and using that money to fund a lavish, high-flying lifestyle. According to the Washington Post, the "once-promising" Illinois politician said in court that he "could not have been more wrong" in his decision to put campaign funds to personal use.
Jackson and his wife, Sandra "Sandi" Stevens Jackson, both entered guilty pleas in February to appropriating about $750,000 from campaign funds to pay for private school tuition for their children, trips to Costco, expensive clothes and a gold-plated Rolex watch. Jackson was emotional Wednesday morning as he addressed U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation).
“I misled the American people, I misled the House of Representatives,” Jackson said, dashing tears from his eyes. "I was wrong and I do not fault anyone.”
He requested that he be allowed to serve his sentence in Alabama, "as far away from everybody for awhile” as he could get.
Jackson's career stumbles began when federal authorities began to investigate the corrupt dealings of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was attempting in 2008 to auction off then-Senator Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. Jackson was not arrested at the time, but investigation of his involvement with the governor led to investigation of his own finances and handling of campaign money.
Jackson's attendance in Congress became sporadic. After several unexplained absences, he resigned from his seat in the House in November of 2012, saying that he was seeking treatment for depression and bipolar disorder.
Prosecutors lobbied the judge to not consider Jackson's struggles with mental health in his sentencing, saying that Jackson's defense team had failed to establish a causal link between his illness and the crimes he committed. Defense lawyers urged the judge to take into account Jackson's successful 17 years as a public servant.
In their sentencing memos, the defense team wrote, "His public fall from grace has already made an example of him, warning other politicians and elected officials of the dangers of personal use of campaign funds.”
Sandi Jackson was also sentenced Wednesday. The former Chicago alderman was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of filing false joint federal income tax returns that misstated the couple's income.