WASHINGTON — Former U.S. representative Jesse Jackson Jr.
pleaded guilty Wednesday to using campaign money to buy more
than $750,000 worth of luxury items, collectibles and clothes,
marking the fall of a man once heralded as one of Illinois' most
Jackson, the namesake of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson,
entered his guilty plea in U.S. District Court and now faces up
to five years in prison. He is expected to be sentenced in the
His wife, Sandi, a former Chicago alderman facing a separate
felon charge for filing false tax returns over six years, will
appear in court in Washington later Wednesday and is also
expected to enter a guilty plea.
"For years I lived in my campaign," Jackson said before entering
his plea. "I used money I shouldn't have used for personal
The Democratic congressman, who represented a district that
included parts of Chicago's South Side and south suburbs, was
first elected to office in 1995, replacing Democrat Mel
Reynolds, who resigned after being convicted of statuary rape.
Jackson, 47, was re-elected by a wide margin in November despite
a looming federal investigation and concerns about his health.
He sought treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic last
year and had been on medical leave for several months when he
Jackson used campaign monies to buy a $43,350 gold-plated men's
Rolex watch, $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas and thousands
more in memorabilia from martial arts master Bruce Lee, hats and
guitars that once belonged to singer Michael Jackson -- along
with memorabilia linked to slain civil rights leaders Martin
Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
The cloud of scandal has hovered over Jackson for several years.
A Justice Department indictment of former Illinois Gov. Rod
Blagojevich, who is now serving a 14-year federal prison
sentence on charges related to trying sell the Senate seat that
Barack Obama vacated when he was first elected president in
2008, noted that wiretaps of Blagojevich caught him speaking of
a candidate for the seat that was willing to raise campaign
money in exchange for the appointment. Federal authorities later
identified Jackson as the candidate.
Jackson was never charged with wrongdoing, but the scandal, as
well as revelations that he had an affair with a Washington
hostess had unraveled a promising career that watchers of
Illinois politics predicted would lead to him to running for
mayor or the Senate.
In the days leading up to Wednesday's plea, the former
congressman was in a fragile state.
"He is struggling with the highs and lows of his bipolar
disorder," the elder Jackson said in a statement on Monday.
"Please pray for him, Sandi and their children.
Put his whore in jail too! Put both niggers in jail where they
Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!