WASHINGTON – Jesse Jackson Jr., a once-promising Illinois congressman, was sentenced to 30 months in prison Wednesday for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money to fund an extravagant lifestyle.
In an emotional hearing that capped Jackson’s precipitous downfall, the longtime House member said he would serve as an example to all of Congress for failing to separate his personal life from his political activities, and that he “could not have been more wrong.”
“I misled the American people, I misled the House of Representatives,” Jackson said as he dabbed his eyes with a pile of tissues. “I was wrong, and I do not fault anyone.”
Jackson, 48, was sentenced to 2½ years and his wife, Sandra Stevens Jackson, 49, to a term of 12 months.
The couple pleaded guilty in February to using about $750,000 in campaign funds to pay for items from the pedestrian to the luxurious: car repairs and trips to Costco, in addition to fur wraps and a gold-plated Rolex watch.
As the family of the Rev. Resse Jackson looked on, the former congressman asked to serve his term at a facility not near Chicago or Washington but in Alabama, “far away from everybody for a while,” he said through tears.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is no relation, said Jackson and his wife, a former Chicago alderman, used campaign money as a “personal piggy bank” and that they were “supposed to live up to a higher level of integrity.”
“There may be blurred lines for Congress to follow when their lives are political. This case did not come near those areas,” she said.
“This was a knowing, organized joint misconduct that was repeated over many years,” she said.