Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to two and a half years in prison Wednesday after pleading to spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.
Jackson was a Democratic congressman from Illinois from 1995 until he resigned last November. Jackson got emotional before the judge and said he wanted to “take responsibility for my actions.”
“I misled the American people,” he said.
Among Jackson’s spending spree was 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.”
Jackson’s wife, Sandra Jackson, was sentenced to 1 year in prison for filing false joint federal income tax returns that understated the income the couple received She also spent $5,150 in campaign funds on fur capes and parkas, court documents show.
Jesse Jackson Jr. had pleaded guilty to the criminal charges back in February. He admitted that he and his wife used campaign credit cards to buy 3,100 personal items worth $582,772 from 2005 through April of last year — including $60,857 for personal expenditures at restaurants, nightclubs and lounges; $16,058 for personal expenditures at sports clubs and lounges; $5,814 for alcohol and $14,513 for dry cleaning.
Individual campaign credit card purchases included a $466 dinner for two of “a personal nature” at a restaurant; a washer, dryer, range and refrigerator for the Jacksons’ Chicago home; multiple flat-screen televisions, Blu-Ray DVD players and DVDs for their Washington, D.C., home; and a five-day health retreat for one of Mrs. Jackson’s relatives.
Jackson told another judge when he entered his plea that “for years I lived in my campaign.”
Jackson could have received up to 57 months in prison, but the lower sentence was recommended. Reid H. Weingarten, Jackson’s attorney, fears that the congressman’s mental health might worsen because of his imprisonment.