Former US lawmaker Jackson Jr admits fraud
Former US congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, the son of the well-known civil rights leader, pleaded guilty Wednesday to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds, including by buying himself a gold Rolex watch.
The admission capped a stunning fall from grace for the Illinois Democrat who was once a rising national star but resigned under a cloud in November after 17 years in the House of Representatives.
Prosecutors said Jackson used some of the siphoned funds to buy children's furniture, fur capes and a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch.
His wife, former Chicago alderwoman Sandy Jackson, was expected to plead guilty to submitting false tax returns later Wednesday.
Jackson, 47, faces up to five years in prison on charges of conspiracy, making false statements, and mail and wire fraud, but his lawyer told reporters that he hoped for a lenient sentence.
"We're hopeful and we expect that there will be fairness in the process," defense attorney Reid Weingarten said on the steps of the Washington federal courthouse.
"A person who contributed so much to his community, done so much for so many people, will and should get credit for it."
Weingarten said Jackson's "serious health issues" -- which include bipolar disorder -- led to his reckless and criminal behavior, but that after "great treatment" Jackson has "gotten his arm around the problem."
"He has two small children and we're hopeful in short order or reasonably short order Jesse again will be a full-time wonderful caring devoted dad," Weingarten added.
Jackson took a leave of absence from Congress last June to receive treatment for bipolar disorder and related depression, and for two months his whereabouts and condition were the chief mystery of Washington's political circuit.
Earlier, he had been implicated in ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's scheme to auction off President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat in 2008.
Blagojevich was impeached and then jailed for bribery, but Jackson was never charged with any wrongdoing related to the scandal. However, prosecutors continued to dog his steps and discovered the diverted funds.
Jackson was first elected to Congress in 1995 after having worked with his father's Rainbow Push organization.
Easily re-elected in his largely Democratic Chicago district last November, Jackson resigned 16 days later, citing his health problems, while also acknowledging the ethics investigations.