Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his legal team arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Jackson and his wife were to appear in federal court to answer criminal charges that they engaged in an alleged scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.
WASHINGTON – Prosecutors were tougher with former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. than his wife, Sandi, because they viewed him as the one who enabled the couple’s seven-year $750,000 spending binge in which campaign funds were diverted to luxury goods, celebrity memorabilia, spa treatments and travel.
Federal prosecutor Ronald Machen Jr. said the Chicago Democrat was the “most culpable” of the two Jacksons. “He enabled this entire thing to take place,” Machen said. “He was the bigger name. When people gave money to that campaign, they were giving money because of him.”
On Wednesday, Jackson, who resigned in November, and his wife, a Chicago alderman until she resigned last month, made tearful guilty pleas to felony counts. Both could land in prison.
A day after the pleas, Machen, 43, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said he was struck by the duration of the crimes and the couple’s extravagant tastes.
“It’s indulgence in the excess,” he said. “It’s so over the top.”