This one goes under the heading of… What was he thinking?
Jesse L. Jackson Jr., the namesake of the famed civil rights leader and once-promising Illinois congressman, was sentenced to 21 / 2 years in prison Wednesday for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money to fund an extravagant lifestyle over many years.
In an emotional hearing in federal court in the District, Jackson said he failed to separate his personal life from his political activities and “could not have been more wrong.”
Jackson, 48, and his wife, Sandra Stevens Jackson, pleaded guilty in February to using about $750,000 in campaign funds to pay for high-end items, such as fur wraps and a gold-plated Rolex watch, in addition to private-school tuition and trips to Costco.
“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.”
He asked to serve his term in Alabama, “far away from everybody for awhile.”
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation) said the former congressman and his wife used his campaign funds as a “personal piggy bank.”
“There may be blurred lines for Congress to follow when their lives are political, this case did not come near those areas,” she said after a more than three-hour hearing. “This was a knowing, organized joint misconduct that was repeated over many years.”
The judge also ordered Jackson to perform 500 hours of community service that is unrelated to politics. She sentenced Sandra Jackson to one year in prison.
Prosecutors said in court papers that Jesse Jackson Jr. was driven by “greed and entitlement,” and they asked the judge to sentence him to a prison term of four years, which falls on the lower end of federal guidelines.
In court Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves called Jackson’s crimes “staggering,” in part because the couple had sufficient independent financial resources, earning nearly $350,000 in 2011.
“These were extreme abuses that strike at the integrity of the campaign finance system,” Graves said.
The defense team asked for a term of less than four years, saying that a shorter term is critical to Jackson’s mental health and that a lengthy sentence would be “devastating” to the couple’s two children – ages 13 and 9…
In the spirit of bipartisanship…
Perhaps his new room mate will be Va. Governor Bob McDonnell, or AG Ken Cuccinelli…