Jackson used campaign money to buy a $43,350 gold-plated, men’s Rolex watch and $9,587.64 on children’s furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. His wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas, the document said.
“I offer no excuses for my conduct, and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made,” the ex-congressman said in a written statement released by his lawyers. “I want to offer my sincerest apologies … it is my hope that I am remembered for things that I did right.”
Several messages left with Jackson’s father, the voluble civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, were not returned Friday. The elder Jackson has often declined to comment about his son’s health and legal woes over the past several months.
The government said, “Defendant Jesse L. Jackson Jr., willingly and knowingly, used approximately $750,000 from the campaign’s accounts for personal expenses” that benefited him and his co-conspirator, who was not named in the one-count criminal information filed in the case. The filing of a criminal information means a defendant has waived the right to have a grand jury consider the case; it is used by federal prosecutors when they have reached a deal for a guilty plea.
The prosecutors’ court filing said that upon conviction, Jackson must forfeit $750,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of memorabilia items and furs. The memorabilia includes a football signed by U.S. presidents, a Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar, a Michael Jackson fedora, Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia, Malcolm X memorabilia, Jimi Hendrix memorabilia and Bruce Lee memorabilia — all from a company called Antiquities of Nevada.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins is assigned to the case.
Tom Kirsch, an attorney for Jackson’s wife said she has signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and would plead guilty to one tax count.
Kirsch said his client and her husband have supported each other. He said the ordeal has been stressful for Sandi Jackson, but she “expected to be held responsible … and wants to put (it) behind her and her family.”
The charge against Sandi Jackson carries a maximum of three-year prison sentence. But Kirsch says the agreement “does not contemplate a sentence of that length.”
The court papers said that Jackson filed false financial reports with the U.S. House of Representatives in an attempt to conceal his and his wife’s conversion of campaign funds for their personal benefit.
A black and red cashmere cape cost $1,500, a mink reversible parka cost $1,200 and a black fox reversible cost $1,500, prosecutors wrote.
Jackson’s resignation ended a once-promising political career tarnished by unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for appointment — which never came — to President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. The House Ethics Committee, which no longer has any power over Jackson, may choose to issue a report on the matter.
Jackson denied any wrongdoing in the Blagojevich matter. But the suspicions, along with revelations that he had had an extramarital affair, derailed any aspirations for higher political office. It wasn’t clear from the court papers whether the woman with whom he had the affair was among the half dozen people identified the documents by letters of the alphabet rather than by their names.
Since last June, Jackson has been hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues, and he stayed out of the public eye for months, even during the November elections.
Yost reported from Washington, D.C.