Former fast-rising Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. received a 30-month jail sentence Wednesday for stealing $750,000 in campaign funds to finance a lavish lifestyle.
Jackson, the 48-year-old son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, had been a Democratic congressman from Illinois from 1995 until he resigned in November. He will be subjected to three years of supervised release after his time is served, Reuters reported
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Jackson and his wife, Sandi Jackson, used campaign funds as a "personal piggy bank," U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson — no relation to the family — told him, according to USA Today
. "There may be gray areas in campaign finance. This case didn't come near to those areas. As a public official, you are supposed to live up to a higher standard of ethics and integrity."
Jackson used the money to pay for living expenses, vacations, and other luxury items.
For her part, Sandi Jackson was sentenced to one year in jail and another year of supervised release. She admitted to falsifying tax returns over a six-year period, and leaving out $600,000 in income. She also used the campaign's credit card to pay for $171,000 in personal goods, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, USA Today reported.
Both Jacksons begged for a lighter sentence, asking the court to consider the effect a prison term would have on their two children, ages 13 and 9.
But the judge admonished the Jacksons.
"It is not the court that put your children in this position," Judge Jackson said to Sandi Jackson, according to USA Today.
Still, the Jacksons won't serve at the same time, allowing one parent to stay home with the children. Jesse Jr. will serve his sentence first, beginning in November. Sandi's sentence will start one month after her husband is released.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, attended the hearing for his son, who pleaded guilty in February to misusing campaign funds. Prosecutors had originally sought a four-year sentence.
Among the items the younger Jackson bought was a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch. He also spent $5,687 for a "holistic retreat" in Martha's Vineyard and more than $5,000 on capes and fur parkas, according to court filings.
During his time in Congress, Jackson worked on issues related to health care and education for the poor. His reputation has taken major hits in recent years amid revelations of an extramarital affair, and allegations that he was been involved in the plot to buy Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat after Obama left for the White House.
In the summer of 2012, Jackson took a medical leave and was treated for bipolar disorder. He was re-elected for a ninth time in November, but resigned two weeks later, citing health concerns and the pending federal investigation.
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