Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to two and a half years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to scheming to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on restaurant dinners, an expensive watch and other costly personal items. His wife received a sentence of one year.
Jackson, the 48-year-old son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, had been a Democratic congressman from Illinois from 1995 until he resigned last November. In an emotional speech to the judge during which he became choked up, he apologized and said he wanted to “take responsibility for my actions.”
“I misled the American people. I misled the House of Representatives. I misled the Federal Election Commission,” he said. “I was wrong.”
According to court papers in the case, Jackson used campaign money to buy items including a $43,350 gold-plated men’s Rolex watch.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that as a public official Jackson was expected to “live up to a higher standard of ethics and integrity.” After prison, he is to spend three years on supervised release and complete 500 hours of community service.
Jackson’s wife, Sandra Jackson, was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison for filing joint federal income tax returns that understated the couple’s income. She was a Chicago alderman before she resigned this year during the federal investigation of the couple. She spent $5,150 in campaign funds on fur capes and parkas, court documents show.
She will serve her sentence after her husband gets out of prison. The couple, who have two children, 13 and 9, asked to serve at separate times.
Jackson’s father sat in the front row during the proceedings.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult time for our family,” he told a crush of reporters outside the federal courthouse after the sentencing.
Jackson Jr.’s sentence was below the sentencing guidelines, which called for a prison term of 46 to 57 months — or just under four years to just under five years.