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Jesse Jackson Jr.’s lawyers to use mental illness to push for lighter sentence Wednesday

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Updated: September 15, 2013 6:32AM

WASHINGTON — Mental health issues are expected to take center stage at Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Wednesday’s sentencing hearing as his lawyers will ask a judge for leniency because the former congressman suffers from bipolar disorder.

Portions of court filings made public on Tuesday reveal U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation) has already reviewed multiple documents involving Jackson’s health issues as well as difficulties the family has faced in recent years.

Attorneys for the Jacksons had asked that some of the documents not be made public. But prosecutors argued that the public’s right to know only increases if the Jacksons are to make health reasons a central factor to ask for a break in sentencing.

Prosecutors have said they will seek four years imprisonment for the South Side Democrat and 18 months for Sandi Jackson, a former 7th Ward alderman. The couple arrived at the courthouse early Wednesday to await their sentencing hearings.

On Tuesday, Sandi Jackson asked that a judge sentence her to community service at Martha’s Table, a well-known Washington, D.C., food pantry. Sandi Jackson approached the organization, and, in a letter to the judge said she wants to “assist with the myriad of services” offered by Martha’s Table, which helps low-income and needy residents in the city.

The Jacksons have asked the judge to keep certain medical information from becoming public.

“Mr. Jackson strenuously objects to disclosure on behalf of himself, his wife and his children. The privacy interest in the intimate details of a family’s medical history, diagnoses and treatment cannot be overstated,” Jackson’s lawyers wrote. “The prejudice that this family, which includes two minor children, will suffer due to disclosure will be significant, long-lasting and irreparable.”

The filings also indicate that the Jacksons are seeking to keep certain medical information private “including Mr. Jackson’s mental health history, Mrs. Jackson’s struggles conceiving and carrying a child to term.”

The government released portions of documents from the Bureau of Prisons indicating that the former congressman’s mental health issues could be adequately treated within the federal prison system. That was in answer to an argument put forth by Jackson lawyers that he needed to be seen by his own doctor to avoid a “relapse.”

The government argued that only a portion of documents should remain private since the Jacksons have made the former congressman’s health struggles a public issue.

In June 2012, the then-congressman took an unexpected leave from Congress, citing exhaustion. He didn’t disclose the leave for two weeks and then revealed he was being treated in an Arizona facility. He was then taken to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The Jackson family later authorized the clinic to release a statement on its behalf citing his issues with bipolar disorder.

Later that year, Jackson was re-elected and weeks later, resigned from his seat, citing his mental health — and a federal investigation.

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