Federal charges filed against Jesse Jackson Jr. - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Federal charges filed against Jesse Jackson Jr., wife

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife agreed Friday to plead guilty to federal charges growing out of what prosecutors said was a scheme to use $750,000 in campaign funds for lavish personal expenses.

EXCLUSIVE: Jesse Jackson Jr. to receive disability pay from Congress

Jackson Jr. is pleading to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and making false statements to Congress. Sandi Jackson is a co-conspirator in that case, but she is  charged only with five years of filing false tax returns.

The Jacksons spent an estimated $750,000 on items raging from that now infamous $43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch to $9,587.64 on children's furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. The document also lists a mink cashmere cape, Bruce Lee memorabilia, a Michael Jackson fedora, an Eddie Van Halen guitar, a "football signed by American presidents" worth $5,000, thousands of dollars' worth of Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia and four items purchased from a California furrier on the same day in 2009 for a total of $4,900.

In a statement released as the charges were announced, Jackson Jr. said that he offers no excuses for his conduct and fully accepts responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes he has made.
 
"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, echoing sentiments expressed in his resignation letter from Congress. He apologized for "my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right."

Sources familiar with Jesse Jr.'s plea deal say prosecutors are recommending a sentence of 46 to 57 months, almost the maximum 5 years for a single conspiracy count. Former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins says it's because of the dollars involved.

"The sentencing guidelines are really based on how much fraud there is," Collins explains. "So my sense is that the four to five estimation or recommendation by the government will be driven by that seven hundred and fifty thousand dollar number."

Jackson's wife Sandi was charged Friday with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011. Her attorney Tom Kirsch says the ex-alderman has signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Sandi could face 3 years behind bars and $100,000 in fines, but Kirsch says the agreement "does not contemplate a sentence of that length."

Kirsch said the episode has been stressful for Sandi Jackson but she "expected to be held responsible ... and wants to put (it) behind her and her family."

"We need to continue to pray for the family as they go through this ordeal," 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale--a contender for Jesse Jackson's second district seat--told FOX 32 News. "They're going through a lot right now, and again my hearts and prayers go out to the entire Jackson family."

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said it appears that former Jackson Jr. "got carried away" trying to acquire political power. Davis says the charges "couldn't be more unfortunate." He says he believes the Jacksons got caught up in bad decisions and the situation got out of hand. He says it's difficult to rationalize their actions.

Fox News is told that Jackson, expected to be in Washington next week when he goes to court, is "extremely depressed" and "broken-hearted." A source said he feels "like he's losing everything" and is trying to figure out how to provide for his family.

Jackson has tried to stay out of public view since he took a medical leave in June for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues. In his resignation letter the day before Thanksgiving, he revealed that he was under a federal investigation and cooperating with authorities.

The past months have been rough for Jackson. He was hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and stayed out of the public eye for months even during the election. The timing of his medical leave invited scrutiny as it came just after a former fundraiser was indicted on unrelated medical fraud charges.

Jackson's resignation letter, which detailed some of the accomplishments of his tenure, also nodded at the troubles ahead.

"During this journey I have made my share of mistakes. I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone," he wrote in the letter. "None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right."

Sandi resigned from her Chicago City Council seat in January, saying she could not adequately represent her district while dealing with "very painful health matters" -- presumably a reference to her husband's bipolar disorder.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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