A federal court sentenced former Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to two-and-a-half years in prison today, punctuating a long fall from grace for the once rising political star.
In February, Jesse Jr., the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, pleaded guilty to felony wire and mail fraud charges stemming from his personal use of $750,000 in campaign funds.
The purchases made by Jesse Jr. and his wife were hardly subtle and would have been tough to justify as a business expense for anyone, much less an elected official. The most glaring purchase, according to court papers, was a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch.
He admitted that he and his wife used campaign credit cards to buy 3,100 personal items worth $582,772 from 2005 through April of last year — including $60,857 for personal expenditures at restaurants, nightclubs and lounges; $16,058 for personal expenditures at sports clubs and lounges; $5,814 for alcohol and $14,513 for dry cleaning.
Individual campaign credit card purchases included a $466 dinner for two of “a personal nature” at a restaurant; a washer, dryer, range and refrigerator for the Jacksons’ Chicago home; multiple flat-screen televisions, Blu-Ray DVD players and DVDs for their Washington, D.C., home; and a five-day health retreat for one of Mrs. Jackson’s relatives.
Jesse Jr., who resigned from Congress last November, asked to serve his jail time in Alabama “to make it a little inconvenient for everybody to get to me.” According to court documents, his wife spent more than $5,000 from the campaign's coffers on fur capes and parkas and was sentenced to one year in prison for understating the couple's income on their joint federal tax returns.