Prosecutors Seek 4-Year Prison Term for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

They suggested Jackson's wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, get 18 months

By Lisa Balde and Phil Rogers
|  Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013  |  Updated 9:09 AM EDT
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In separate hearings on Wednesday, Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi Jackson, each entered guilty pleas to federal charges. Phil Rogers reports.

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Federal prosecutors are recommending former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. get four years in prison for misusing $750,000 in campaign money.

In a sentencing memo filed Friday, federal prosecutors asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson to sentence former Jackson Jr. to 48 months in prison and to order him to pay $750,000 in restitution to his campaign fund, as well as a forfeiture money judgment of $750,000.

"When one views the Defendant's history and characteristics, his financial condition at the time of the conspiracy, the nature and circumstances of the offense, the seriousness of the offense, and the need for avoiding unwarranted sentencing disparities, there can be little doubt that a sentence of 48 months is appropriate," prosecutors wrote.

They suggested Jackson's wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, get 18 months for filing false joint federal income tax returns and restitution of $168,550.01.

"[Sandi Jackson] was not simply a beneficiary of her husband's theft. [She] stole," prosecutors said. "In fact, she stole a lot."

Prosecutors want the couple to serve staggered sentences for the sake of their children with Sandi Jackson serving first.

Jesse and Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty in February and were warned they could be sentenced to nearly five years and two years, respectively.

Jackson's lawyers say he accepted full responsibility for his actions. "He is remorseful and has agreed to repay all the funds he misappropriated and to forfeit items he purchased with them."

They only ask for a "below guidelines sentence." They do not ask that he be spared prison time, but  do note that "his mental health may well worsen under the stress of incarceration."

Jackson's father wrote to the judge appeal "for mercy."

"I am not sure at what point Jesse Jr. began to foil his own ambitions," Jesse Jackson wrote, "whether the depression began to set in, whether the duodenal bariatric surgery, which requires strict medical discipline, or where the bipolar disorder fit into the trajectory. But I do know that when we as a family realized this, he has been under substantial medical treatment for recovery and in honoring his doctor's prescription."

Prosecutors noted that at the time of the offenses, Jackson's salary as a United States congressman put him in the top 10 percent of household incomes in the country. 

On top of that, he was paying his wife $5,000 per month as a campaign consultant, a total of $340,500 during the 84 months prosecutors say the conspiracy lasted. The government notes that starting in 2008, she also was drawing a Chicago aldermanic salary which grew to $114,913 last year.

"Before defendant and his wife stole a dime, they received substantial incomes," the prosecutors noted. "In 2011, their combined income from their salaries and her consulting fees was $344,556.  In 2011, that household income would put the Jacksons within the top four percent of household incomes in the country."

The government notes that the recommended sentence amounts to .64 months per $10,000 stolen. It says Jackson was "contrite throughout the process" and that his cooperation in the investigation saved the government not only the expense of a trial but also saved them time.

Prosecutors said Jackson spent thousands of campaign dollars on fan memorabilia, including $4,000 on a Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar. Other charges included more than $4,000 for a cruise, $2,300 at Walt Disney World and $5,600 at a spa on Martha's Vineyard.

Court documents show Sandi Jackson failed to claim about $600,000 on her income tax returns between 2005 in 2011. 

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