Disgraced Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is going to spend time in jail if US Attorney Ronald Machen gets his way.
Machen recommended that Jackson spend 48 months in prison following his guilty plea in February for misuse of campaign funds.
Jackson pleaded guilty in February to misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign funds to enrich himself. Among the items that the congressman bought with the money were a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch, fur coats and home furniture.
In a statement released by his attorneys in February, Jackson acknowledged making “improper decisions and mistakes.”
“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties,” Jackson said. “Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made. To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends, and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for all the things that I did right.”
Jackson resigned from Congress last November only weeks after winning re-election in a landslide. He represented the Second District in Illinois, a district that includes a large part of Chicago’s South Side and southeast suburbs.
The son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, Jackson Jr. mysteriously left Congress in June of 2012 to seek treatment for exhaustion. After months of medical leave — he missed a whopping 230 votes in Congress — and stints at treatment centers in Arizona and Minnesota, the congressman was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Machen is also asking that Jackson’s wife Sandi, a former Chicago city alderman, be sent to prison first and be sentenced to 18 months. This would allow at least one parent to be free in order to take care of the Jackson’s young children while the other serves their sentence.
In a separate filing, prosecutors urged that Sandi Jackson be sentenced to prison for 18 months, pay more than $168,000 in restitution and be placed on supervised release for an additional year.
Attorneys for Jackson Jr. made a lengthy filing of their own today, saying he deserved a lighter sentence in part because his “severe depression and bipolar disorder require intense ongoing treatment.” A long prison term, they said, would be “devastating” on his children.
“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.”
Portions of the filing were redacted, including an entire section labeled “Health Issues.”
In the filing, the ex-congressman’s lawyers said: “Due to his and his wife’s resignations from public office, Mr. Jackson’s family has lost its only sources of income. The harsh spotlight of the media that has followed him at every step of the investigation, his plea and his sentencing, has already punished Mr. Jackson and his family immeasurably.”
The prosecutor is recommending nearly the minimum sentence. Guidelines call for Jackson to be sentenced from between 46 and 57 months. It is likely that Jackson’s medical condition will allow him to serve his sentence in a prison hospital facility, since his maladies are both physical and psychological.
Will there be a second act for Jackson? The former rising star in the Democratic party may be back in Congress some day. He’s a relatively young man and the district in which he was elected is one of the most Democratic districts in the country. His name recognition alone would make him a serious player.
But a few politicians recently have tried a comeback after serving time and failed — James Traficant perhaps the most prominent example. Traficant, released from prison in 2009, made a go of it in 2010 — and got only 16% of the vote.