Feds: Sentence Jesse Jackson Jr. to 4 years, Sandi to 18 months
BY LYNN SWEET Washington Bureau Chief June 7, 2013 11:46PM
Jesse Jackson Jr., Sandi Jackson, in February | AP
Updated: July 9, 2013 6:22AM
WASHINGTON— Jesse Jackson Jr. looting his campaign fund was about “greed and entitlement,” federal prosecutors said Friday, arguing for a four-year sentence. Wife Sandi deserved 18 months because she “stole.”
“In fact, she stole a lot.”
The brutal assessments came in sentencing memos filed by the government in U.S. District Court here for the former congressman and his Chicago alderman wife.
Both Jacksons will be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation) on July 3.
The biggest drama at this stage is over whether the judge will consider Jesse Jackson Jr.’s physical and mental condition as a mitigating factor for a lesser sentence. Most of the medical details were redacted or blacked out from the filings his lawyers made that were part of the public record. Jackson has been treated for bi-polar disorder, disappearing last year, surfacing at Mayor Clinic.
The Jacksons have a boy and girl, who attend a private elementary school in Washington. In order not to leave the children without a parent, the prosecutors are suggesting to the judge that Sandi Jackson go to prison first.
With a time off for good behavior, Sandi Jackson could be back home in about a year, the prosecutors said. “If Mr. Jackson is sentenced to a lengthy prison term, the effect on his children will be devastating,” his lawyers argued.
Attorneys for the Jacksons’ filed memos with dozens of letters from friends and family members pleading with the judge to be lenient in sentencing.
Lawyers for Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said he should serve less than four years, asking for a break because of his mental and physical health, the “good work” he had done in Congress, his lack of a criminal record and his cooperation with federal authorities.
Enough was left in the open record about Jesse Jackson Jr.’s health to give a gist of what the lawyers want the judge to consider. In asking for a break, Jesse Jackson Jr. lawyers wrote his “mental health and need for continuing treatment support” are reasons for a lesser sentence.
“Mr. Jackson’s severe depression and bipolar disorder require intense ongoing treatment,” his lawyers wrote in their memo.
“His mental health may well worsen under the stress of incarceration, making a below-Guidelines sentence crucial to his continued well-being.
“Mr. Jackson does not represent a threat to the public given his age and his lack of a criminal history. His public fall from grace has already made an example of him, warning other politicians and elected officials of the dangers of personal use of campaign funds. Even a below-Guidelines sentence would reflect the seriousness of his conduct, promote respect for the law and deter other criminal conduct.”
In a letter dated April 22 addressed to the judge, the Rev. Jackson wrote, “I am not sure at what point Jesse Jr. began to foil his own ambitions,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. I am anxious to see him continue his service and work as he recovers.”
The couple pleaded guilty last Feb. 20 to looting $750,000 from campaign warchests they controlled, bankrolling 3,100 personal purchases from the lavish — a $43,350 gold plated Rolex watch, an elk head, memorabilia, trips and furs — to the mundane, household supplies from Costco.
Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty for failing to report income of about $600,000, which, the prosecutors said in their memo, “she did not earn the unreported income. She stole it.”
In addition, prosecutors are asking for Jesse Jackson Jr. to face a three-year period of supervised release and to repay $1.5 million in restitution and forfeitures.
The government wants Sandi Jackson to face a one-year period of supervised release and pay $168,550 in restitution for her role in their schemes to steal money from his congressional and her aldermanic political funds.
The government memos detailing the Jacksons’ spending sprees underscored their argument that Jesse and Sandi Jackson chose to steal money to finance a lavish lifestyle despite having comfortable salaries and resources few even “dream” of obtaining.
“Before defendant or his wife stole a dime, they received substantial incomes,” the memo said — in 2011 alone that amounted to $344,556.
The government memo made much of the audacity of Jesse Jackson Jr. in the period after the arrest of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in December, 2008.
Jesse Jackson Jr. was so corrupt, the memo said, that even though he had been questioned by the FBI in connection with the Blagojevich scandal — and had to know he was under scrutiny — he “decided to double down on his criminal conduct” by continuing to steal from his campaign fund to pay personal expenses.
Sandi Jackson, after Blagojevich’s arrest, at least “dramatically decreased the amount that she stole. To be clear, Defendant does not deserve credit for stealing less,” the government said.
Blagojevich, who went through two federal trials, is in a Colorado prison serving a 14 year sentence on corruption charges where it was never shown he took a dime.
The memo shed some new light on exactly how the Jesse Jackson plea deal went down. Jackson offered to cooperate before the government came to him.
His lawyer came to the prosecutors last fall, aware of the investigation. Jesse Jackson was “contrite” and decided to cooperate, reducing to weeks an investigation that “might have taken months.” As a result, Jackson caught a break — he was not charged with every possible crime he could have been because he saved the federal government time and money.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, prosecutors could have asked for 24 months for Sandi Jackson. Her relatives wrote letters to the court earlier begging for her to get probation.
The government said they were asking for the “low end of the spectrum” for Jesse Jackson and could have sought five years.
Both Jacksons’ were told in court last February about the high-and-low end of the sentences they could face.
The court also is being asked to appoint a monitor to take control of the remaining money in the Jackson congressional fund.