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Friends, relatives ask judge to show Jackson Jr. leniency

WASHINGTON DC - FEBRUARY 20:  Rev. Jesse Jacks(L) his wife Jacqueline LaviniBrown (R) arrive U.S. District Court for hearing

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: Rev. Jesse Jackson (L) and his wife Jacqueline Lavinia Brown (R) arrive at U.S. District Court for a hearing involving his son, former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., February 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi Jackson, are expected to plead guilty to federal charges after being accused of spending more than $750,000 in campaign funds to purchase luxury items, memorabilia and other goods. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Updated: July 9, 2013 6:23AM

WASHINGTON — While federal prosecutors painted Jesse Jackson Jr. as a greedy and entitled former lawmaker raised in privilege in their sentencing memo filed on Friday, his sister and mother, in their letters, talked about a man with a painful youth — struggling in the shadow of his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Jacqueline Jackson also shed light in her letter on what has been a mystery: Jesse Jr’s medical condition in the period before he vanished from public view June 10, 2012, to surface later at Mayo Clinic for treatment of bipolar depression.

Mrs. Jackson, alerted by daughter Santita that something may be wrong, visited her son during the “last weeks” of June 2012. She found her son “grossly underweight and in poor health.” At the Capitol with her son, she said a security guard pulled her aside to tell her Jesse Jr. had “collapsed on the floor of the House and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Mrs. Jackson recalled in her letter that when she and Rev. Jackson arrived in Chicago in 1964, just before Jesse Jr. was born, Rev. Jackson was a seminary student and the family so poor they received food baskets from the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church to survive.

“Contray to the belief of many who see us as we are today from a televised perspective, Jesse Jr. was not born with a silver spoon nor was he born privileged,” wrote Jackson.

“Growing up in the shadow of his father, Jesse Jr. has always tried desperately to live up to the expectations we have had for him. I think perhaps too hard, he has tried.”

In asking for leniency, Mrs. Jackson asked the judge to consider a “compassion and reparative justice.”

Both Mrs. Jackson and Santita, his older sister, wrote about how Jesse Jr. had to repeat 9th grade, which he did when he enrolled in one of the most elite schools here, St. Alban’s.

And the fame of growing up as the kids of Rev. Jackson — well, they paid a price, Santita wrote.

As youngsters, “Our Father’s name was far more controversial than celebrated and actually, depending upon where you stood, it was a name that was at least as infamous as it was famous.

We lived with daily assassination threats, armed security in our home and the probability — not the mere possibility — that our father could be taken from us at any moment, as had happened to so many before him.”

Since entering Congress, “I have watched him struggle — with that which I was not certain.”

The dozens of letters pleading for mercy from the judge included Democratic House colleagues, family friends and people whom Jesse Jr. helped as a congressman.

Harvard Psychiatry Professor Alvin Poussaint, a well known author — and friend of the Jackson family — told the judge that while he was not treating Jesse Jr., “his mental condition is certainly a mitigating circumstance that may explain the awful mistakes he acknowledges in his plea agreement.”

The filings include letters from retired Northeastern Illinois University Prof. Robert Starks; Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) who wrote about his own battle with depression; Cook County Board Member Jerry Butler; Father Michael Pfleger; Rev. Clay Evans; Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson and Ray Anderson Jr., a friend from high school, now a Chicago Public Schools lobbyist. Anderson noted that Jesse Jr. wrangled more than $51 million in federal assistance for city schools through the years in his note to the judge.

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