THE son of American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson plans to plead guilty to charges of misusing $750,000 (£480,000) in campaign funds, his lawyer said yesterday.
Jesse Jackson jnr’s wife, Sandi, will also admit a related charge of filing false tax returns, her lawyers said.
She resigned as an official with Chicago city council last month. Her husband – a House Representatives for Illinois from 1995 – resigned in November citing health reasons but confirming he was being investigated by the FBI.
The couple were once considered among the most powerful in the city – the largest in Illinois – but yesterday they issued statements that effectively end their political careers.
“I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made,” said Jackson jnr, 47, in his statement.
He now faces fraud and conspiracy charges.
Sandi, 49, said in a statement she was “deeply sorry” for her actions.
Jackson jnr was once talked about as having the potential to become the first black president, said Andy Shaw, president and chief executive of the Chicago-based Better Government Association.
“Instead of heading for the White House, he is heading for the big house, and that is an enormous fall from grace,” Shaw said in a radio interview.
Jackson’s father, now 71 and once a Democrat presidential candidate, was not immediately available for comment.
Prosecutors said at least seven people were involved in the scheme to divert campaign funds for personal use.
Among the accusations is that Jackson jnr shipped a $43,350 (£28,000) men’s Rolex watch purchased with campaign funds to his Washington address. He also shipped fur stoles and parkas purchased with $5,150 (£3,400) in campaign funds to the Beverly Hills home of an unnamed person, the documents said. As part of the case, the government said Jackson jnr must forfeit tens of thousands of dollars in celebrity memorabilia derived from the alleged crimes, including a $4,600 (£3,000) fedora hat that once belonged to pop star Michael Jackson. Under federal sentencing guidelines, if convicted, he faces up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine and his wife three years and a $100,000 fine, but defendants who own up rarely get the maximum.
Jackson jnr disappeared from public view early last summer and speculation swirled for weeks about his condition.
He said in late June he had taken leave of absence two weeks earlier for treatment for exhaustion.
He issued a statement in early July saying his health problems were more serious and he needed extended in-patient treatment for “physical and emotional ailments”.
Days later, his physician said he was receiving intensive care for a “mood disorder” and was expected to make a full recovery.
The Mayo Clinic announced in late July that Jackson jnr had been admitted.
He was treated for at least six weeks at the Mayo for bipolar disorder, or manic depression, which is marked by highs and lows of mood and can be treated by medication and psychological counselling.
Representative Danny Davis, another Chicago Democrat – as is US president Barack Obama – said he believed the alleged offences were related to the disorder, the symptoms of which can include reckless behaviour, such as spending sprees.
Among items Jackson jnr bought was an American football signed by US presidents.
“It’s kind of beyond one’s imagination,” Davis said. “A $5,000 football – that’s kind of bizarre. It’s so sad and so unfortunate.”
Jackson jnr made it to Congress in the mid-1990s after winning a special election triggered by the resignation of Representative Mel Reynolds, who was convicted of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. Reynolds is now vying for the seat again in a 26 February Democratic primary.
Jackson jnr was a reliable liberal vote during his 17-year House career, supporting increases in the minimum wage, the expansion of environmental regulations and gay rights and, in 2008, the bailout of the teetering US financial system.
He was also an early advocate of a strict timeline for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. He was re-elected in November 2012, despite his absence. His resignation came two weeks after the election.
In addition to the federal investigation of his campaign finances, Jackson jnr had been the subject of a House ethics committee probe over an alleged bribe offered by one of his supporters in 2008 to then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. The bribe was said to be intended to entice Blagojevich to appoint Jackson jnr to the US Senate seat vacated by Obama. Jackson jnr admitted lobbying for the seat, but denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who has since been convicted of corruption and jailed.