Jesse Jackson Jr. gets 30 months, Sandi gets 12 months - Dallas News |

Jesse Jackson Jr. gets 30 months, Sandi gets 12 months

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A federal judge sentenced disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to 30 months - 2 ½ years - in prison, and sentenced his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, to 12 months.

Chicago Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr. was once seen as a possible candidate for U.S. president, serving the state of Illinois in Congress since 1995. Jesse Jackson Jr. is the son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Jackson Jr. submitted a guilty plea after being charged with misuse of $750,000 in campaign funds, which he admitted to spending on personal items like a $43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch, vacations and mounted elk heads.

After prison, the former congressman is to spend three years on supervised release and complete 500 hours of community service. If he earns credit for good behavior in prison, he could end up serving closer to two years. He agreed to repay the $750,000 when he pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Jackson Jr. resigned last November during the federal investigation that probed his use of the campaign money.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson - no relation - said Wednesday that as a public official, 48-year-old Jackson was supposed to live up to a higher standard.

In court, Judge Jackson recognized Jackson Jr.'s public service on issues such as public education and clean water. "That's what makes this situation so tragic," she said.

But the judge said that if she gave him no jail time it would send a message that there are two systems: one for the well-connected and one for everyone else.

"I cannot do it. I will not do it," she said, adding that Jackson's actions could not be excused because of mental illness.

After hearing his sentence, Jackson Jr. said he "manned up and tried to accept responsibility" for what he did. He said he still believes in the power of forgiveness, redemption and "the resurrection."

Jackson Jr. apologized to the American public, adding, "I misled the American people." He said he was sorry for his crimes, and for hurting his family.

The former congressman's lawyer Reid Weingarten also said his client thinks his sentence of 30 months is fair. Weingarten said no one is celebrating, but that Jesse's "fall from grace is complete."

Weingarten also said those surrounding Jackson believe he will once again "do great things, describing his client as "a very special guy" who can be charming and kind but whose behavior reflected mental illness.

Meanwhile, the brother of former Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested the Jacksons got off way too easy compared to the 14 years being served by the ex-governor.

"For whatever reason, the decision was made to arguably go light on Jesse Jackson Jr. and in my opinion, and I've said this publicly many times, for my brother to have been given a very unfair, unjust punishment," Robert Blagojevich said.

Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke to the press Wednesday after the sentencing hearing, and said he's glad the judge considered his son's bipolar disorder, which he called a "distressful condition," in her own way.

The civil rights activist said it has been an "extraordinarily difficult" time for his family.

Judge Berman Jackson sentenced former Chicago alderman Sandra Jackson to 12 months in jail. She must serve the entire year in jail, without a chance for time off for good behavior.

Sandi Jackson, 49, asked to serve her time at Marianna Florida Prison Camp for Women. She was ordered to pay $22,000 in restitution and serve 200 hours of community service.

The former 7th ward alderman admitted in a guilty plea earlier this year that from mid-2006 through mid-October of last year, she failed to report $600,000 in income that she and her husband earned from 2005 to 2011. She received jail time for filing false joint federal income tax returns.

She also resigned from her position in City Council when federal authorities began an investigation into the couple.

Sandi Jackson's attorney Dan Webb said Wednesday that she will serve her time in jail after her husband. Webb said she is grateful for being allowed to serve her sentence after her husband, giving her time to help her children "heal" and to rebuild her life.

Jackson told the federal judge that he hoped his son and daughter wouldn't suffer because of his actions and that his wife, Sandra, would receive probation. If not, he would be willing to serve her sentence for her.

"Give me her time," Jackson said.

For himself, Jackson said he wanted to serve his prison time in Alabama or North Carolina where he could be away a while and it would be "a little inconvenient for everybody to get to me."

In letters to the court prior to Wednesday's sentencing in Washington, the former congressman's family urged the judge to go easy on him, blaming much of his bad behavior on his recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

"I appeal to you for mercy," Jackson's father wrote in one letter. "Jesse Jr. is an example as a teacher and counselor who will be better served under supervision and probation."

Jackson's mom, Jacqueline Jackson, describes becoming aware of her son's unraveling a year ago, just before he disappeared from public view. Months later, he resigned his House seat.

"(I) found my son grossly underweight and in poor health," she writes. "When I took him to his Capitol Hill office to prepare for (a) vote, the office was in total disarray, which was most unusual for my son."

Weingarten said the younger Jackson has been under a microscope for his entire life and had enormous expectations placed upon him from the time he was born.

But prosecutors dismiss the notion that Jackson's bipolar disorder explains his misdeeds.

There is no proof his mood swings had any bearing on the "3,100 illegal transactions that occurred during the life of the conspiracy," they say in one filing.

They also noted his apparent greed. The combined annual salaries of Jackson and his wife were more than $300,000 during much of the time they were burning through donors' money.

Prosecutors took particular umbrage at defense claims that Jackson's crimes were ultimately victimless. Jackson betrayed voters, they told the judge, and he undermined the democratic process by shaking public confidence in the nation's campaign-finance system.

Public officials, one-time supporters and public watchdogs responded to the 2 1/2-year prison sentence for Jackson Jr.

After Jackson's sentencing in Washington on Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn called it "a sad day" for Jackson and his family. But he added, "Justice has to be served."

U.S Rep. Danny Davis says he'd hoped Jackson would get probation.

David Morrison of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says other politicians should take note of the consequences to Jackson.

And Chicago political consultant Delmarie Cobb says the sentence was fair.

She says longtime supporters feel betrayed but that they'll give Jackson a chance to make his mark again after he's served his time. She says Jackson deserves "a second chapter in life."

The judge said Jackson's reporting date for prison would be on or after Nov. 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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