So what happens when you use approximately $750,000 in campaign funds to buy Michael Jackson memorabilia, a gold Rolex watch and a wadrobe full of mink cashmere capes and reversible mink parkas? If you’re former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., you serve around two and a half years in a Federal prison, according to a sentence handed down this morning by a Federal judge.
Jackson Jr., who was faced with a number of charges ranging from wire fraud to mail fraud to conspiracy and making false statements to investigators, got off pretty easy: the maximum prison sentence for his crimes was 57 months and Jackson will serve about half that, and while Illinois politicians tend to serve large chunks of their Federal sentences, they usually get them reduced. Jackson pleaded guilty, so a shorter sentence was expected. Sandi Jackson, Jackson’s wife and campaign manager received a sentence of 12 months in prison for tax fraud.
A federal judge sentenced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to 30 months, or about 2-and-a-half years, in prison for misuse of campaign funds.
His wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for tax fraud. The judge also ordered her to pay $22,000 in restitution, which is the amount she spent from her campaign as alderman.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson says that she believes Sandi should serve her sentence first, but is willing to discuss, so the court is taking a 20 minute break.
Sandi Jackson is crying.
The defense has asked for her husband, Jesse Jackson Jr., to serve his sentence first.
“This is a very sad day and a difficult case,” said Judge Amy Berman Jackson before she handed Jesse Jackson Jr.’s sentence down. She said she finds he is “genuinely committed” to his work in Congress. But, she said he wrote checks and credit charges more than 3,000 times.
Talking about Jackson’s illness, she said “this disorder can not begin to explain” the multiple purchases.
Jackson will not have to pay fines or restitution for the money he stole from his donors to pay for his extravagant lifestyle.
During the sentencing hearing, Jesse Jackson, Jr. addressed the court, saying that, “I misled the American people; I misled the House of Representatives; I misled the media…I was wrong. I don’t fault anyone.” I guess that’s a good enough apology – for a politician – but the truth is that he did more than just “mislead” a couple of people who were always going to vote for him anyway. The entire series of events was carefully orchestrated, from his pile-up of expensive decor to his long-term stint in a mental hospital that allowed him to win re-election before he resigned in disgrace (and allowed his wife to pull a $5,000-per-month paycheck to head up a campaign that never actually did anything). He may be sorry for having funneled off three quarters of a million dollars from his campaign coffers, but he certainly tried his best to make the consequences as easy as possible for himself.
Oh, by the way if you’re wondering if he’s about to become destitute, today’s hearing can put all of your worries to rest. Turns out, because he’s technically “bipolar” (the diagnosis given as a reason for his long absences form doing his job in Congress), Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been collecting his Congressional disability payments, along with a possible Congressional retirement package, despite having resigned from Congress in disgrace and having been convicted of a host of Federal crimes.
His lawyers did not answer questions from the Tribune about the payments, but the newspaper found Jackson may be eligible for federal disability payments of as much as $8,700 a month — or 60 percent of his congressional pay.
And while you might note that, at 48 years old, Jackson Jr. is too young to receive Social Security or retirement benefits, it turns out that by declaring himself physically unfit for the job, he’s taken advantage of a loophole there, too.
His age and his tenure in Congress — almost 17 years — are short of the mark for a standard retirement annuity from the Federal Employees Retirement System, or FERS. Members of Congress can collect a pension from FERS starting at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after 25 years of service, according to the Congressional Research Service.
But Jackson appears eligible for another FERS program that pays out “disability retirement” payments.
Under program rules, potential payments in the first year would total $8,700 a month — or $104,400 a year. The potential payments would drop to $69,600 annually in subsequent years.
Any payments are subject to income taxes, according to officials at the federal Office of Personnel Management. Citing privacy rules, OPM officials would not talk about Jackson Jr. but provided general information about FERS benefits.
He will be making more sitting on his ass in a Federal prison than you will working three jobs. And if he’s in the system, he even gets free health care and cable television. And a health club membership. And you were all concerned that people at McDonald’s can’t make a living wage based on a questionably-concocted Huffington Post chart. This man committed Federal crimes that included stealing money and lying to investigators and not only does he get a soft sentence because the Judge feels that he’s a “good man who merely did bad things,” but he’ll be sucking a salary from taxpayers until he keels over and dies.
But he’s sorry, so you’ll at least get that. Or something.