WASHINGTON (AP) — The son of prominent civil rights leader Jesse Jackson was charged Friday with scheming to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. His wife was charged with filing false income tax forms in a spectacular fall from political prominence for the couple.
Federal prosecutors filed a charge of conspiracy against Jesse Jackson Jr., a former Chicago congressman, and charged his wife, Sandra, with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011. Both agreed to plead guilty in plea deals with federal prosecutors.
Jackson entered Congress in 1995 and resigned last November. Sandi, as she's known, was a Chicago city official, but resigned last month.
Both face maximum penalties of several years in prison; he also faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures. But the government did not immediately release the text of its plea agreements. Such agreements almost invariably call for prosecutors to recommend sentences below the maximum.
"I offer no excuses for my conduct, and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made," the ex-congressman said in a statement.
Several messages left with Jackson's father were not returned Friday. The elder Jackson has often declined to comment about his son's health and legal woes over the past several months.
Jesse Jackson Jr.'s spending included $43,350 on a gold-plated, men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 on children's furniture, according to court papers filed in the case.
The government said, "Defendant Jesse L. Jackson Jr., willingly and knowingly, used approximately $750,000 from the campaign's accounts for personal expenses" that benefited him and his co-conspirator, who was not named in the one-count criminal information filed in the case. The filing of a criminal information means a defendant has waived the right to have a grand jury consider the case; it is used by federal prosecutors when they have reached a deal for a guilty plea.
The prosecutors' court filing said that upon conviction, Jackson must forfeit $750,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars' worth of memorabilia items and furs. The memorabilia includes a football signed by U.S. presidents, a Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar, a Michael Jackson fedora, Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia, Malcolm X memorabilia, Jimi Hendrix memorabilia and Bruce Lee memorabilia — all from a company called Antiquities of Nevada.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties.
Tom Kirsch, an attorney for Jackson's wife says she has signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and would plead guilty to one tax count.
The charge against Sandi Jackson carries a maximum of three-year prison sentence. But Kirsch says the agreement "does not contemplate a sentence of that length."
Since last June, Jackson has been hospitalized twice for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues, and he stayed out of the public eye for months, even during the November elections.
Associated Press writer Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.