Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and wife Sandi co-conspired to divert $750,000 in campaign money for personal use, according to an information filed today against the former congressman by the Washington D.C. U.S. Attorney. Former 7th Ward Alderman Sandi Jackson, who the document states is a resident of the District of Columbia, faces a separate charge of filing false tax returns between 2006 and 2011 and has pleaded guilty, according to a statement from her attorney.
The federal information released by the U.S. Attorney charges Jackson Jr. with one count of conspiracy to commit false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud. The document alleges he used campaign to purchase, among other things:
- $43,350 gold-plated, men's Rolex watch
- $9,587.64 worth of children's furniture
- $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas
- $10,105 worth of Bruce Lee memorabilia
- $11,130 of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia
- $26,700 of Michael Jackson Memorabilia, including a $4,600 Michael Jackson Fedora
- An $800 Mink Cashmere Cape
- A $1,500 Black and Red Cashmere Cape
- A $1,200 Mink Reversible Parka
- A $1,500 Black Fox Reversible
The charges came in the form of a Federal Information, as opposed to an indictment returned by a federal grand jury. Former Federal Prosecutor Patrick Collins says that means the sides have come to a "meeting of the minds," as reported talks between parties have been well documented for some time.
The former congressman's attorney says that Jackson will plead guilty. If convicted, Jackson Jr. faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Sandi Jackson faces up to three years in prison and a fine of $100,000. The expected agreement likely means lesser punishment for both. Sandi Jackson is labeled as a 'co-conspirator' in her husband's case, but is not charged in that case.
"In laymen's terms, the government is throwing her a bone," says Collins. "She'd definitely be facing a stiffer sentence, and it certainly seems as if the government could've charged her (in her husband's case)."
Jackson resigned from Congress last November, admitting in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that he had made his share of mistakes.
"I think he was gracious in accepting responsibility for his mistakes," says Robert Starks, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University. "He said he has no excuses. That's different than many other public officials in his position."
Jackson's former communications director, Frank Watkins, refused to comment on the charges. Watkins says he is now employed by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, which controls the currently vacant 2nd District Office.
"I go into the office, clean, answer phones, and get the office ready for the next person," Watkins said.
A spokesperson in the U.S. Attorney's office says no court date has been set.
Read the full charging documents for Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sandi Jackson in the PDFs below.