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Jesse Jackson, Jr. given 2 1/2 years; his wife to serve 12 month sentence

By Freddie Allen NNPA Washington Correspondent | Last updated: Aug 23, 2013 - 5:30:57 PM

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Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and his wife Sandra, leave federal court in Washington, Aug. 14, 2013. Jackson was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to scheming to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on TV’s, restaurant dinners, an expensive watch and other costly personal items. His wife received a sentence of one year. Photo: A/P Wide World Photos
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - After openly weeping and apologizing for his behavior, former U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. was sentenced to 2 ½ years in federal prison for using $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

“Your honor, throughout this process, I’ve asked the government and the court to hold me and only me accountable for my actions,” Mr. Jackson told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. He said, “I am the example for the whole Congress. I understand that I didn’t separate my personal life from my political activities, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

He also said, “I misled the American people, I misled the House of Representatives.”

As the younger Jackson delivered his statement Aug. 14, his father, Jesse Jackson, Sr., sat in the first row listening as tears ran down his cheeks and his mother, Jacqueline, also crying, donned sunglasses for much of the proceedings. His siblings were also in the courtroom.

“I also want to apologize to my dad and to my mother,” Mr. Jackson, Jr. said.

Mr. Jackson’s wife, Sandra, a former Chicago alderwoman, was sentenced to a year in prison and will have to serve all 12 months. She must also repay $22,000 taken from her own campaign account for alderwoman.

The former congressman must report for prison on Nov. 1 or shortly thereafter. Based on time off for good behavior, Mr. Jackson, Jr. could be released after completing 25.5 months. In addition, he must perform 500 hours of community service.

Claudette Marie Muhammad, director of fundraising for the Nation of Islam, told The Final Call Aug. 19 that she received a call from Mr. Jackson Jr. He thanked Min. Farrakhan for his support and thanked her for a letter sent to him and his wife, said Ms. Muhammad. She added that Mr. Jackson, Jr., asked me to call Min. Farrakhan and let him know “how kind it was of him to call me and I will never forget his telephone call” and uplifting words of consolation. Mr. Jackson, Jr., added that he felt much better post-sentencing, had accepted responsibility for his actions and felt free, said Ms. Muhammad. He is awaiting notice of which federal facility to report to but wants Min. Farrakhan to be among his first visitors, she added.

He also asked to have the information relayed to The Final Call newspaper, said Ms. Muhammad. His voice was strong and he “sounded like a strong Black man lifted in the spirits,” she said. Ms. Muhammad has known the congressman, his wife and family for some time.

Because the Jacksons’ have children, aged 13 and 9, they will serve time consecutively, with the husband entering prison first. Prosecutors had asked that Mr. Jackson Jr. be sentenced to four years in prison and his wife 18 months.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Mr. Jackson treated campaign funds as “a personal piggy bank.”

The judge  acknowledged that in the past, lawmakers were  more loose with the use of campaign funds, but Mr. Jackson’s actions far exceeded even those limits.

“There may be blurred lines for Congress to follow when their lives are political, this case did not come near those areas,” she told Mr. Jackson, Jr., who represented Chicago’s South Side for 17 years. “This was a knowing, organized joint misconduct that was repeated over many years.”

Mr. Jackson, Jr., once a rising political star and the oldest son of civil rights leader Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., pleaded guilty last February to conspiracy, making false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud. His wife Sandra was charged with filing false tax returns. She will also have to perform 200 hours of community service.

According to information filed in federal court, Mr. Jackson, Jr. knowingly misspent campaign funds from about August 2005 through July 2012.

Prosecutors said among the unauthorized spending was a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch for Mr. Jackson, Jr., more than $22,000 in Michael Jackson memorabilia,  $11,130 for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorabilia, $10,105 for Bruce Lee memorabilia, $9,587.64 worth of children’s furniture shipped from New Jersey to the couple’s Washington home, a $5,000 football signed by American presidents, $2,775 on Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, $2,200 for Malcolm X memorabilia, a $1,500 black and red cashmere cape, and a $1,200 mink reversible parka.

The judge recommended assigning the former congressman to a minimum-security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Ala., or a low-security facility in Butner, N.C., near Raleigh, N.C., where white-collar criminal Bernie Madoff is housed. Both institutions made Forbes magazine top 10 list in 2009 of the nation’s cushiest federal prisons.

The judge recommended that Sandra Jackson be sent to a similar facility in Florida. However, the Bureau of Prisons will make the final decision. Sandra Jackson must report to prison within 30 days of her husband’s release.

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