Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a onetime Democratic rising star representing the South Side of Chicago and the namesake of the civil rights leader, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman in Washington Wednesday for misusing roughly $750,000 in campaign funds.
Sandi Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, also received 12 months in prison for filing false tax returns on the misspent campaign funds. Jackson, 48, will also three years of probation and perform 500 hours of community service after his prison sentence. He will not have to pay $750,000 in restitution in addition to $750,000 in forfeiture.
"I still believe in the power of forgiveness. I believe in the power of redemption. Today I manned up and tried to accept responsibility for the errors of my ways, and I still believe in the resurrection," Jackson said outside the courthouse.
The couple will serve their sentences consecutively so that one parent can tend to their children, ages 9 and 13. Jesse Jackson Jr. will serve his sentence first per the couple's request. He asked the court that he serve his sentence in Alabama in order "to make it a little inconvenient for everybody to get to me."
The former Illinois Congressman was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements.
Although defense attorney Reid Weingarten noted the Jacksons were pleased with the sentencing, he said "No one's celebrating today, obviously. The fall from grace is complete."
In court, Jackson asked the judge to "Give me her time…What she did was a subset of what I did, a culture I allowed to exist."
The Jacksons pleaded guilty in February to spending the campaign money on everything from a gold-plated Rolex and Michael Jackson memorabilia to vacations and private school tuition. According to Politico, their combined annual salaries were more than $300,000 during much of the time they were dipping into the funds.
Jackson's downfall began when allegations surfaced in 2008 that then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to sell to the highest bidder the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Federal authorities allege Jackson offered $6 million in campaign funds for Blagojevich to select him for the job.
He took a leave of absence from Capitol Hill during the summer of 2012, which his office attributed to exhaustion. Jackson was reported to have checked out of the Mayo Clinic in November 2012 for bipolar disorder treatment.
"Bipolar was never part of my lexicon, until he got to the Mayo," Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday. "He did not use that as an excuse for his behavior. He was remorseful. His record was a factor in the sentencing and he is still recovering. Jesse's been very sick."
Jackson resigned from Congress in November 2012 amid a federal investigation into his campaign spending. He was elected to serve the Second District of Illinois in 1995.
"None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right," said Jackson in his resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner.