CHICAGO – Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last year after nearly 17 years in office, was charged Friday with spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. His wife was charged with filing false income tax forms.
Federal prosecutors filed a charge of conspiracy against the former congressman and charged his wife, Sandra, with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011. Attorney Tom Kirsch told The Associated Press that Sandi Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, has signed an agreement pleading guilty to her charge.
Jesse Jackson Jr. said in a statement that he offers no excuses for his conduct and fully accepts responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes he has made.
Jackson has tried to stay out of public view since he took a medical leave in June for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues. In his resignation letter the day before Thanksgiving, he revealed that he was under a federal investigation and cooperating with authorities.
The past months have been rough for Jackson. He was hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and stayed out of the public eye for months even during the election. The timing of his medical leave invited scrutiny as it came just after a former fundraiser was indicted on unrelated medical fraud charges.
Jackson's resignation letter, which detailed some of the accomplishments of his tenure, also nodded at the troubles ahead.
"During this journey I have made my share of mistakes. I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone," he wrote in the letter. "None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right."
He echoed many of the same sentiments in the Friday statement released as the charges against him and his wife were announced.
Jackson's resignation ended a once-promising political career that was tarnished by unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.
Jackson, 47, has denied the allegations related to Blagojevich, but he remained the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation into the matter. The committee, which no longer has any power over Jackson, may choose to issue a report on the matter. Blagojevich, who was convicted on numerous corruption charges, is serving a 14-year prison term.
His wife, Sandi, resigned from her Chicago City Council seat in January, saying she could not adequately represent her district while dealing with "very painful health matters" — presumably a reference to her husband's bipolar disorder.