Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty this morning to misusing more than $750,000 in campaign cash, a crime that is expected to land the Illinois Democrat in prison for at least a short stay. "Sir, for years I lived off my campaign," Jackson told the judge. "I used money I shouldn't have for personal purposes."
Jackson entered the anticipated plea in Act One of a two-part drama playing out in federal court not far from the House chamber where he served. Act Two is on tap this afternoon, when his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, is expected to plead guilty to filing false tax returns.
Jackson Jr. entered a negotiated plea of guilty on one felony count of conspiracy to commit false statements, wire fraud and mail fraud. Prosecutors say he spent campaign contributions to buy luxury items, memorabilia and other goods.
Jackson, who resigned from the House late last year after serving 17 years in Congress' lower chamber, faces up to five years in prison as a result of his one count of conspiracy. (His wife, meanwhile, faces up to three years.) Sentencing isn't expected for several weeks, but one legal expert the Tribune spoke to predicted that Jackson would be sentenced to "a year and a little bit more."