WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife are to appear in federal court to answer criminal charges that they engaged in an alleged scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.
Both the former Illinois congressman and his wife, Sandra, have agreed to plead guilty in deals with federal prosecutors. Jackson is charged with conspiracy and his wife with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011 that knowingly understated the income the couple received.
The Jacksons are appearing separately Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins — with the former congressman appearing in the morning and his wife in the afternoon.
Both Jackson and his wife face maximum penalties of several years in prison; he also faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures.
Jackson, 47, used campaign money to buy a $43,350 gold-plated, men's Rolex watch and spent $9,587.64 on children's furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. His wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas, the document said.
When prosecutors charged the couple last Friday, the ex-congressman said he fully accepts the responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes he has made. Tom Kirsch, an attorney for Jackson's wife, said she has signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and would plead guilty to one tax count.
The conspiracy charge against the former congressman carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties. The charge against Sandra Jackson carries a maximum of three years in prison. However, one of her lawyers, Tom Kirsch, says the plea agreement "does not contemplate a sentence of that length." Sandra Jackson was a Chicago alderman before she resigned last month during the federal investigation.
In court papers filed against Jackson on Friday, prosecutors said that upon conviction he must forfeit $750,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars' worth of memorabilia items and furs. The memorabilia includes a football signed by U.S. presidents, a Michael Jackson fedora, and memorabilia of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Lee — all from a company called Antiquities of Nevada.