The Justice Department Friday charged former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. with using $750,000 in campaign money to buy personal items, including furs, furniture and a Rolex watch. The son of a civil rights leader with a once-promising political career, Jackson Jr. may now face prison time.
Jackson’s legal trouble began in 2008 when he was linked to then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barack Obama. While Jackson was ultimately not charged in the case, which sent the governor to federal prison, the congressman became the subject of an ethics probe.
His misfortune increased in 2012, when he disappeared from the public eye and resigned his position in the House of Representatives in November after being diagnosed with a bipolar condition. That same month, a federal investigation was opened into misuse of campaign funds.
Jackson, 47, was charged Friday with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements. He faces five years in prison and fines of $250,000 if convicted. His wife Sandra Stevens Jackson, who resigned her seat as a Chicago alderman in January, was charged with filing false joint tax returns from 2006 through 2011. She faces three years in prison and fines of $100,000 if convicted.
Jackson is expected to plead guilty and released a statement Friday apologizing for “improper decisions and mistakes.”
“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties. Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made. To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right.”
Jackson enjoyed strong political support in Chicago, where his supporters hoped to eventually see him run for mayor, and was considered heir to his father, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson Sr . Jackson’s political future may now be determined when he and his wife face a federal judge.
“This has been a difficult and painful ordeal for our family,” Jackson Sr. told the Chicago Tribune. “We express our love for him as a family.”