Over a seven-year period, former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill, and a co-conspirator believed to be his wife funneled roughly $750,000 from his re-election account to pay for a $43,000 Rolex watch, furs, Michael Jackson memorabilia and other personal luxuries, according to a formal charging document filed by federal prosecutors Friday.
The government will recommend a prison sentence of 46 to 57 months, according to media reports. Jackson is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy, making false statements, and mail and wire fraud. His wife, Sandi, a former Chicago alderman, is expected to plead guilty to unspecified charges as the co-conspirator referenced in the government’s filing, the reports said.
The information, as the charging document is called, details how Jackson, on a regular basis from 2005 to 2012, illegally spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from his re-election accounts on an array of personal expenses. In July 2008, Jackson purchased nearly $10,000 worth of children’s furniture in New Jersey that was shipped to his residence in Washington, D.C. In November 2009, he spent more than $5,000 on “fur capes and parkas” in Beverly Hills. In April 2011, a $25,000 check from a re-election account was issued to pay down balances on the former congressman’s personal credit cards.
Jackson must forfeit thousands of dollars’ worth of Bruce Lee memorabilia, items once owned by Michael Jackson — including a $4,600 fedora — and other items that were purchased using the stolen funds. The government also requested $750,000 in restitution, according to the filing.
Rumors of a plea deal have been swirling since shortly after Jackson was re-elected to his Chicago-area seat in November. He resigned soon after, citing ongoing health concerns. In the months leading up to the election, Jackson mysteriously disappeared from Washington, and his office refused to say where he was, only that he was being treated for a medical problem. Subsequently, his staff acknowledged he was being treated for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic.
The latter years of Jackson’s congressional career were marred by ethics allegations and scandal.
At the time of his resignation, the House Ethics Committee had an ongoing probe related to allegations that Jackson offered to raise money for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, in exchange for being appointed to a vacant Senate seat. The independent Office of Congressional Ethics referred that matter to the committee in August 2009, but it was delayed while the Department of Justice prosecuted Blagojevich, who was found guilty of 17 of 20 corruption charges.
CQ Roll Call has in the past raised questions about expenses paid by Jackson’s re-election committee. Last year, CQ Roll Call reported that the campaign committee had covered $12,000 in travel expenses for Jackson and his wife to remain in Israel for an additional three nights after a weeklong excursion sponsored by a private interest group. Campaign finance law experts said at the time that lawmakers can use campaign funds for official officeholder expenses overseas, although without specifics it would be difficult to determine what trips might qualify.