Jesse Jackson Jr., wife face sentencing Wednesday - Dallas News |

Jacksons hope for leniency at Wednesday sentencing

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

If Jesse Jackson Jr.'s federal sentencing judge accepts that his performance as a congressman outweighs his crime, she could give him probation for misusing $750,000 in campaign money.

The 48-year-old Illinois Democrat goes before the judge Wednesday in Washington. Prosecutors want a four-year prison term for Jackson and 18 months for his wife. The Jacksons are both asking for much less.

Among the arguments defense attorneys make for leniency is that Jackson steered $1 billion in federal funds to his district.

For an idea of what to expect at Wednesday's sentencing, FOX 32's Larry Yellen talked with Ron Safer and Gil Soffer, two former federal prosecutors.

Both believe Jackson Jr. will address the court.

"He can help his case," Safer believes. "The most powerful thing that happens at sentencing is the defendant talking to the judge, apologizing for the offense, taking responsibility upon himself."

"I think we will hear from him and I think we will hear a lot of contrite words from him," Soffer adds.

Will Jesse Jackson Jr.'s illness affect the sentence?

"To the extent the defense can say that his illness was tied in some way to the crime, that, it made him more likely to commit the crime, then it should have an impact on his sentence," Safer explains.

Soffer says Jackson Jr.'s lawyers are going to have to be very careful with the health issue.

"They can't make the argument that he did what he did because of his health issues because that can backfire," he explains. "There are any number of people with bipolar disorders who are not committing crimes."

Judge Amy Berman Jackson is no relation to the defendant. But the judge's own past suggests she might give consideration to the lawyers' arguments.

She was the attorney for former Congressman William Jefferson, a New Orleans Democrat convicted of bribery in 2009.

She asked for leniency for Jefferson by citing his public service. But in the end, Jefferson received a 13-year prison term.

"She has a no nonsense reputation for being fair-minded," Soffer describes of Judge Jackson. "So I don't think this is a case where you could look and say, ‘hey, this is a hanging judge or it's a defendants judge.'"

As for predictions in the Jacksons' case, Safer expects Jesse to get around three years and Sandi, some sort of confinement but not prison. Soffer expects Jesse to get closer to four years, with Sandi getting something under the 18 months asked for by prosecutors.

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