Jesse Jackson Jr. formally charged with conspiracy
Updated at 7:00 p.m. ET
Federal prosecutors today formally filed criminal charges against former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for misusing $750,000 in campaign funds to purchase everything from an expensive watch to thousands of dollars worth of memorabilia and fur capes for his wife.
In paperwork filed this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Jackson was charged with one count of conspiracy. The charges claim that between August 2005 and July 2012, Jackson directed funds from his campaign to pay personal credit card bills totaling $582,773. Additionally, the charges accuse him of making direct, personal purchases from his campaign account in the amount of $57,793. They also allege that Jackson provided a co-conspirator with $112,150 for transactions that personally benefited him.
Specifically, the money was allegedly spent on items including $5,000 football signed by U.S. presidents, $9,600 worth of furniture and a $43,000 gold-plated men's Rolex watch. The charges say $5,150 was spent to ship fur capes and parkas from Beverly Hills, Calif., and that thousands of dollars in campaign funds were also spent on memorabilia of Martin Luther King, Jr., Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix.
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Jackson, the charges allege, unlawfully and knowingly omitted information from his Federal Election Commission reports on the use of his campaign funds.
Jackson's wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, was separately charged with one count of filing false income tax returns. Sandi Jackson has reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud, her attorneys said in a statement. "Ms. Jackson has accepted responsibility for her conduct, is deeply sorry for her actions, and looks forward to putting this matter behind her and her family," attorneys Dan Webb and Tom Kirsch said.
According to CBS Chicago, Jesse Jackson Jr. has also reach a plea deal. Jackson has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of misuse of campaign funds in exchange for a prison sentence of less than five years. As part of the agreement, the government reportedly demanded that Jackson give up his congressional seat -- which he did in November, just a little more than two weeks after easily winning re-election. The deal also reportedly calls on Jackson to repay the misused funds.
The plea deal will reportedly let a federal judge determine Jackson's punishment, which may or may not include jail time. 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.
His wife's false tax return charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties. No court dates have been set.
In a statement, Jackson offered no excuses for his conduct and said he accepts full responsibility for his decisions and mistakes.
"Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties," he said. "Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made. To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it my hope that I am remembered for things that I did right."
While under investigation last year, Jackson also struggled with his mental health. He spent four weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota over the summer in treatment for bipolar depression. In spite of his problems, Jackson last year won re-election in Illinois' second district, which he had represented since 1995, with 63 percent of the vote.
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Sandi Jackson's false tax return charge could carry a maximum penalty that includes a fine of up to $100,000. The maximum fine is actually $250,000.
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