Former U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife are to appear in federal court to answer criminal charges that they participated in an alleged scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.
Both the former Illinois congressman and his wife, Sandra, are reported to 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 events of the Jackson fall from grace and the following revelations have stunned many in the African American community.
The son of civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson had a bright political future and even was an Obama campaign co-chair and was a rising star in the Democratic Party.
Jackson Jr. served as national co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign in 2008 and had his eyes on higher profile political seats. His hopes were ruined when his name surfaced as part of the Blagojevich corruption investigation and with revelations that Jackson had been involved in an extramarital affair.
Jackson denied any wrongdoing in the Blagojevich matter, which involved unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds in exchange for being appointed to Obama's vacated Senate seat.
At that time many felt like federal prosecuters were over reaching and no one thought at that time that Jackson was close to resigning his seat in Congress.
Jackson disappeared from public view for several weeks in later months. His staff eventually stated he was being treated for bipolar disorder and other medical issues.
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, is reported to have 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 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.
According to reports 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, 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.
The fall from grace by Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandra surprised many given his upper middle class upbringing and privileged lifestyle. He was one of the royalty in Black America and while he is not being overly criticized his demise still hurts many who supported his father and hoped he would be a contender for the presidency in future years.