Korecki: Jacksons lucky they didn’t face home field disadvantage
BY NATASHA KORECKI August 23, 2013 6:44PM
Jessie Jackson Jr, Wife Sentenced In Federal Court In DC
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:45AM
Maybe it was the smirk on his face.
Maybe it was how quickly his eyes dried up, minutes after overflowing with tears.
But somehow I couldn’t help but think Chicago was robbed of a certain closure when two of its own politicians — Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sandi Jackson — were sentenced in another city.
The crowd, the reporters, the entirety of the day would have taken on a much different tone had it been held in the town where the two hailed from, instead of Washington, D.C.
So would have the mea culpas.
In Chicago, defense lawyer Dan Webb would never have gotten away with calling Sandi Jackson — who was sentenced to 12 months in prison — an “extraordinary” alderman. Too many people would have pounced on the fact that, in the annals of corrupt Chicago aldermen, most had a leg up on her: At least they lived here.
So the Jacksons were lucky that FBI agents in Washington, D.C., were the ones to first open up the Jackson financial probe, eventually placing the case in the jurisdiction of D.C. federal court.
Sure the courtroom in our nation’s capital was packed, and in addition to national coverage, some Chicago media outlets (including this one) ponied up to send a local reporter to the Jacksons’ sentencing hearing.
Still, there’s no comparison to the media onslaught the couple would have faced in Chicago, where the Jackson name once was akin to royalty. The line would have snaked down Dearborn and Adams streets.
The judge in D.C. blocked prosecutors from bringing up the Rod Blagojevich case in aggravation. Would that have happened here, where we lived and breathed Blagojevich since at least 2008? Where a judge so sternly put the former governor behind bars for more than a decade in part because he failed to learn from his predecessor?
To Aaron Goldstein, Blagojevich’s lawyer, there’s an inescapable irony in the disparity between the ex-governor’s 14-year sentence and the 30 months Jackson received. Jackson was never charged in the Blagojevich case, but his name and the names of Jackson donors played major roles in both Blago trials.
That’s because on tape, it’s clear that Blagojevich believed Jackson was behind a $1.5 million offer to buy Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
“Rod’s sentencing guidelines were hugely escalated because of Jesse’s [alleged] offer,” Goldstein said in a recent Sun-Times interview.
Prosecutors weren’t allowed to bring up the Blagojevich case at Jackson’s sentencing. But Jesse Jackson Jr.’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, asked for less time for his client, in part, because Jackson was a “critical witness” at Blagojevich’s trial who was “very important” to Blagojevich’s conviction.
Weingarten wouldn’t have gotten away with that in Chicago.
The truth is that it was Blagojevich who called the ex-congressman to the stand.
As a defense witness.
There, Jesse Jackson Jr. revealed that he called the feds to rat out Blagojevich on a pay-to-play offer — which he said happened four years earlier.
When the feds at the time, in early 2008, asked Jackson to sit down and discuss it, this so-called “critical witness” essentially told them, maybe later.
Yeah, Jackson thought Blago was crooked and all, but hey, he was still angling for a Senate seat appointment from that crooked governor.
Turns out at the same time Jackson called federal prosecutors, he was elbow deep in the cookie jar.
“That was enough for him, for Jesse Jackson Jr. to call the U.S. attorney’s and hopefully start an investigation against Rod Blagojevich,” Goldstein said. “There’s just so much hypocrisy. He has no problem calling the feds on someone, at the exact same time he’s purchasing moose heads. The arrogance! That’s just, wow.”
If the Jacksons appeared in federal court here — plea deal or not — they would have paid a heavier price.
With the Rod Blagojevich scandal so fresh in everyone’s minds, few would have been surprised by a sentence closer to five years, the top of the range. Instead, the sentencing judge in Washington, D.C., “departed” from the guidelines and gave Jesse Jackson Jr. a term below the low-end of the range.
It was just enough to make a depressed man smile.