“I feel badly for Jesse; I’m not going to judge him … he admitted he did wrong,” colleague Peter King, representative of New York’s 2nd Congressional District, told the AmNews.
On Wednesday, Aug. 14, an unforgiving verdict was delivered to former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandra Jackson. The court sentenced Jesse to two and a half years in prison with three years of probation. Sandra Jackson was sentenced to one year. Both pled guilty to the misuse of $750,000 during the seven years of their campaign.
Jesse Jackson has dominated the political sphere since 1995. As a thriving force in Illinois’ bureaucracy, Jesse Jackson was a supporter of the building of a third major airport in the Chicago metropolitan area, which brought a community deprived of employment some much needed economic activity. He advocated for recent political reforms in health care, transit, education and housing.
Sandra Jackson, who served as Chicago alderman from May 2007 to January 2013, has worked on community issues such as economic development, lower crime rates and higher quality education.
Despite years of positive endeavors, the recent fraud led to the downfall of the couple’s political careers. According to a press release by the FBI, since 2005, they have abused donated campaign funds to foster their own personal expenses. In July 2007, Jesse Jackson withdrew $43,350 in campaign funds to purchase a gold-plated Rolex watch. In addition to using $14,442 to pay off personal credit cards, he also spent money on vacations, Micheal Jackson memorabilia and fur goods. Sandra Jackson pled guilty to filing false tax returns, resulting in a tax loss of $159,000.
In court, Judge Amy Berman Jackson permitted Jesse and Sandra Jackson to serve their sentences at separate times so that their 13-year-old daughter, Jessica Donatella, and 10-year-old son, Jesse Louis “Tre” Jackson, won’t grow up in the absence of their parents.
Since the beginning of the trial, Jesse Jackson’s parents, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Jacqueline Lavinia Brown, have witnessed their son go through a vicissitude of public failures and personal defeats. The parents of the ailing congressman have said that even in such a trying time, the health of their son is their main concern.
In spite of their strength, the days have not been sunny for Rainbow Coalition leader Jackson Sr.
“The last few months have been difficult and filled with dark days and many low moments for our family,” Jackson Sr. said in a statement. “He turned to us as a family and said, ‘I let you down, and for that, I apologize.’ I think we let him down. I may have missed the signs, and I was apologetic to him.”
Supporters of Jackson Sr. agree that Jackson Jr. should not be judged.
“In the midst of all the negative things they’re saying, it is rare that a politician takes ownership; I think that is to be commended,” the Rev. Andrew Singleton Jr. of Victory Apostolic Church in Mattesson, Ill., told the AmNews.
Jackson Jr. pled guilty in February 2013 and will be gin serving his sentence this fall at a prison camp in Montgomery, Ala. Sandra Jackson will serve her time in a women’s institution in Marianna, Fla.