Jesse Jackson Jr., wife await sentencing for misusing campaign funds

CNN
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 9:29am

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who misused about $750,000 in campaign funds, apologized Wednesday before he and his wife, Sandi, were set to be sentenced.

"I misled the American people," Jackson said.

The pair pleaded guilty in February to various changes -- Jackson to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and false statements; and his wife to filing false tax returns.

The former Illinois congressman admitted to years of using campaign money to pay for things such as vacations, furs and Michael Jackson memorabilia.

In a statement read in court, Jackson said he wants to be held accountable for his actions and he knows what he did was wrong. The former legislator also asked for the judge not punish his wife for what he said "was a subset of what I did."

"I ask that my kids not suffer from my actions," Jackson said of his two children, ages 9 and 13. "If probation is not available to my wife, give me her time."

Jackson's lawyers reiterated that sentiment and asked the court for an 18th month sentence for Jackson and probation for his wife.

"This is not Madoff," Reid Weingarten, Jackson's lawyer, said in court. "There was no Ponzi scheme."

Prosecutors have recommended a four-year sentence for Jackson and an 18-month sentence plus a payment of $168,550.01 restitution for his wife.

"This is a sad day that involves a waste of talent," Matthew Graves, the federal prosecutor on the case, said in court Wednesday. "They were in the top 10 percent of household earning in the United States. There's just no need for this kind of conduct."

He continued: "He does not deserve credit for doing his job as a congressman. That what he was paid to do."

Jackson's defense lawyers had pointed to the congressman's record as a congressman -- one they said was good -- as a reason for the lighter sentence.

The defense team also requested that Jackson be jailed at federal correctional facilities in either Montgomery, Alabama, or Butner, North Carolina. Butner is where Madoff is serving his 150-year sentence for investment fraud. Both facilities are minimum security.

"I ask for Alabama so I can be as far away from everybody for a while as I can be," Jackson said in court. "I want to make it a little inconvenient for everybody to get to me."

Prosecutors have kept the couple's children in mind, suggesting the Jacksons serve their sentences consecutively so that one parent is able to be home at all times.

According to court records, Jackson misused about $750,000 in campaign funds from August 2005 through July 2012. Some of the eye-popping spending included $60,000 at Antiques of Nevada, where Jackson bought two hats belonging to the late singer Michael Jackson costing more than $8,000; a $5,000 football signed by U.S. presidents; and memorabilia involving the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and martial artist Bruce Lee.

Jackson and his wife also bought Blu-Ray DVD players from Best Buy, dresses and jewelry from a small boutique and fur capes and parkas from a Beverly Hills, California, furrier.

Jackson served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 until 2012, when he took a medical leave of absence and never returned.

His lawyers later stated he suffers from bipolar disorder.

Outside the courtroom, Jesse Jackson Sr., Jackson's father and a civil rights leader, told reporters that his son was "unbelievably sick" a year ago, but is now doing better.

"I don't know how I missed so many signs," the elder Jackson said.

-- CNN's Carol Cratty, Athena Jones, Larry Lazo and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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