Prosecutors raise prospect of their expert to examine Jesse Jackson Jr.
BY LYNN SWEET Washington Bureau Chief Twitter: @lynnsweet April 26, 2013 12:40PM
Jesse Jackson Jr.
Updated: May 29, 2013 7:38AM
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors raised the prospect on Friday in court of having their experts examine former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. if his lawyers plan to raise his bipolar disorder as a mitigating factor in trying to reduce his prison sentence.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson made no decision after prosecutor Matt Graves said he wanted to “alert” her to the possible issue in advance of the sentencing July 1 of Jackson and his wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson.
The two pled guilty in February in the federal case, admitting to looting $750,000 from campaign funds for personal use.
Judge Jackson asked for the hearing because she is taking over the case after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins — who handled the pleas of the couple — withdrew without explanation from the case.
Graves said the government is “entitled” to have Jackson checked “by our own experts” if Jackson’s lawyers decide to argue Jackson’s mental health should be taken into consideration by the judge when she sentences him.
Defense attorney Reid Weingarten told Judge Jackson that the former congressman’s bipolar disorder is well known and “not controversial.”
Weingarten also said they do not intend to argue that Jackson’s “criminal activity” was caused by his mental illness. The former congressman was hospitalized at Mayo Clinic last year for treatment of bipolar depression.
Judge Jackson — who consolidated two separate sentencing dates into one morning July 1 sentencing session for the couple — had nothing before her to rule on, since the defense lawyers have yet to show their hand.
The judge signaled that the former congressman’s mental state may be a factor for her, since she said she was required to consider “who he is as a person.”
In the case, the Jacksons were accused of misusing $750,000 in campaign funds, lavishing themselves with personal items ranging from fur coats to mounted Elk heads and pricey memorabilia to a Disney vacation and a five-day holistic retreat on Martha’s Vineyard.
Jackson also used campaign cash for purchases like toothpaste and toilet paper.
The former Democratic congressman has called it “not a proud day.”
A federal prosecutor went further, calling it a tragic day.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. has said Jackson had “squandered” a promising career to satisfy his personal whims. In over seven years, federal authorities said there were 3,100 illicit transactions.
Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. His wife pleaded guilty to a single tax crime. She failed to report more than $600,000 in income on the couple’s taxes from 2005 to 2011.
The credit card purchases alone paid by campaign funds from August 2005 to April 2012 topped $580,000, according to court documents.
Among the purchases were $60,857.04 at restaurants, nightclubs and lounges.
Jackson Jr. and his wife spent more than $300 at Build-a-Bear for stuffed animals and accessories, while Jackson Jr. dropped $466.30 for a dinner for two at the CityZen restaurant at the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., according to court records.
They spent $15,120.55 at Abt Electronics to buy a washer and dryer, a range and a refrigerator for their Chicago home and spent more $30,000 in campaign money to renovate their Washington, D.C., home.
Jackson Jr. also used campaign money in part to buy two mounted elk heads for about $8,000 from a Montana taxidermist.
The elk heads were eventually sold to an undercover FBI agent posing as an interior designer, and the money from the sale was wired to Jackson Jr.’s personal account, according to the court documents. Sandi Jackson oversaw the transactions in August last year, according to the court documents.