In separate hearings on Wednesday, Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi Jackson, each entered guilty pleas to federal charges. Phil Rogers reports.
After pleading guilty Wednesday to separate charges for misusing campaign money, Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi, must now face sentencing.
Jackson Jr. admitted to spending $750,000 of campaign cash on personal items such as a $4,600 Michael Jackson fedora and a $1,500 black-and-red cashmere cape. Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty to failing to claim about $600,000 on her income tax returns between 2005 in 2011.
Jackson's charges require a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and an order of restitution. Prosecutors likely will request a lesser sentence of between 46 to 57 months and a fine between $10,000 and $100,000. The final decision, though, will be with the judge.
"I'm not bound by the sentencing guidelines," Judge Robert Wilkins told Jackson. "The sentencing guidelines are advisory, and they are something I am bound to consider."
Judge Wilkins gave the same warning to Sandi Jackson, who could face up to three years for her offense but likely will be given less per her plea deal.
"I can give you three years in prison, regardless of what the guidelines say," Judge Wilkins said. "Right now, you don't know and I don't know what your sentence will be. But you can't withdraw your plea because you aren't satisfied with the sentence."
Prosecutors said Jackson spent thousands of campaign dollars on fan memorabilia including $4,000 on a Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar. Other charges included more than $4,000 for a cruise, $2,300 at Walt Disney World and $5,600 at a spa on Martha's Vineyard.
That's not all. Prosecutors said more than $15,000 was spent for a washer-dryer, range and refrigerator at Abt Appliances and more than $10,000 for flat-screen TVs and DVD players at Best Buy. There were even charges at Build-A-Bear Workshop
Prosecutors said some of the improper funds Sandi Jackson used included 3,100 purchases amounting to $27,421.22 from her aldermanic campaign account: $60,857 in restaurant charges, $16,058.91 in gym expenses, $17,163.36 spent at a tobacco shop and $14,513.42 in dry cleaning expenses.