Jesse Jackson Jr. sentence too light

  • Article by: JOHN KASS , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2013 - 12:34 PM

The Chicago political couple got a fraction of the prison time their crimes called for. See if it works that way for you.

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Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and his wife Sandi, left federal court in Washington. They were sentenced this week in connection with the theft of $750,000 in campaign funds.

Photo: Susan Walsh • Associated Press,

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It’s obvious there was much drama in the courtroom as Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi, waited to be sentenced in the theft of $750,000 from his campaign fund.

He cried and she cried, and after the drama came the actual sentence.

So let’s talk about what actually happened. Let’s put off the discussion of the wet tissues and the echo of sniffles, and that vague and unproven spin about Jackson’s reported, but unsupported, mental illness.

First, consider what federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation) did to Chicago’s royal political couple from that courthouse in Washington.

She didn’t bring her federal hammer down. She didn’t throw the book at them. She didn’t even give them a sharp slap on the wrist.

She gave them some federal time, but not as much as they deserved.

In real terms, Jackson will serve a little more than two years, and she’ll serve one. Not a bad price for stealing and spending three-quarters of a million dollars.

This is not a tragedy for the Jacksons. It’s a victory.

But for us? It’s a sad joke.

He’s a former U.S. representative, and she’s a former Chicago alderman. Junior made six figures as a congressman. She made six figures as an alderman. He also paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra money as a consultant. That sum was also taken from campaign funds, but was deemed “legal” by the Federal Election Commission.

On top of the hundreds of thousands in legal cash coming in each year, the Jacksons wanted more.

So they took three-quarters of a million dollars that didn’t belong to them and spent it on spas, jewelry and junk. Included in the pile of junk was ridiculous Michael Jackson memorabilia, an Eddie Van Halen guitar and absurd stuffed elk heads.

And for that he gets a little over two years in real time and she does 12 months? Not bad.

But at least America received a twisted civics lesson from one of Jesse Jackson Jr.’s lawyers, Reid Weingarten. He suggested that politicians who steal from their own campaign funds don’t really hurt anybody. He downplayed it as if he wanted us to think it was a victimless crime.

“This wasn’t a Ponzi scheme,” Weingarten told the judge. “There are not widows and orphans surrounding the courthouse wanting his head.”

Yes, he’s correct. There were no impoverished widows and orphans demanding Jackson’s head.

But far outside the courtroom, in their own homes or at what jobs they can find, were hundreds of millions of Americans who pay their bills and play by the rules and get slapped around by the political class.

Still, Weingarten’s argument was so catchy it deserves a special name so that it may be taught in law schools: The Reid Weingarten Widows and Orphans Absolution.

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