After months of rumors and reports, the federal charges against former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, became official on Friday.
A document filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleged that Jackson Jr. used about $750,000 in campaign funds for his personal benefit. The charges against Jackson Jr. include conspiracy, false statement, mail fraud, and wire fraud.
In a separate document, Sandi Jackson was charged with one count of filing false tax returns.
The charges were filed by the Justice Department in what are called “Information” documents, which are normally used in lieu of a grand jury indictment when a plea agreement has already been worked out with the defendant.
Reached by TPM on Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. declined to comment on any plea deals. But lawyers for both Jacksons told The Chicago Tribune that their clients had reached deals with prosecutors.
“He has accepted responsibility for his actions and I can confirm that he intends to plead guilty to the charge in the information,” Jackson Jr.’s attorney Brian Heberlig said.
In detailing the charges against Jackson Jr., prosecutors alleged, among other things, that the former lawmaker used campaign credit cards to make $582,773 in personal expenses, and directly used $57,793 in campaign money for personal expenses. Among the items purchased were a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch, $9,588 worth of children’s furniture, and $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas purchased by an unnamed co-conspirator. Other items purchased include tens of thousands of dollars worth of Bruce Lee memorabilia, Michael Jackson memorabilia, Malcolm X memorabilia, and Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, plus items described by prosecutors simply as “Michael Jackson hat,” “Michael Jackson fedora,” and “Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar.”
The document also said the owner of an Alabama-based company wrote a $25,000 check to pay down the balance of one of Jackson Jr.’s credit cards, a payment which Jackson Jr. willfully omitted from a financial disclosure statement.
Reports Friday indicated that Jackson Jr. faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties. Sandi Jackson, meanwhile, faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, and other penalties.
Jackson Jr. issued a statement Friday through is his attorney, in which, while not addressing the charges directly, the former Congressman professed to take responsibility for his actions.
“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 in the statement, obtained by The Chicago Sun-Times. “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 my hope that I am remembered for things that I did right.”
Jackson Jr., who was first elected to the House in 1995, resigned from Congress in November, just weeks after winning re-election in Illinois’ Second District.
Voters returned Jackson Jr. to Congress despite his barely campaigning. In June, Jackson Jr. collapsed in his Washington, D.C. home, and he spent the rest of his tenure in Congress on medical leave, being treated for bipolar disorder. In his letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Jackson Jr. mentioned both his health issues and the federal criminal probe into his activities.
After Jackson Jr.’s resignation, Sandi Jackson was briefly mentioned as a possible replacement for his House seat. But she publicly denied interest in the seat, and ultimately resigned her aldermanic position in January.
The couple has two children.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com