Former Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. entered a guilty plea Wednesday morning on one felony count of conspiracy to commit false statements, wire fraud and mail fraud.
According to prosecutors, he and his wife used $750,000 of campaign cash for personal use for an array of items, including celebrity memorabilia, a Rolex watch and other luxury items. His wife Sandi is also expected to enter a guilty plea for knowingly filing false tax returns.
"I used money I shouldn't have for personal purposes, and I acknowledge that," Jackson said in court, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Jackson, who will be sentenced on June 28, will remain free until then, but must relinquish his passport and will be tested weekly for substance abuse.
His attorney, Reid Weingarten, is hopeful that the former lawmaker will receive what he called a fair sentence. Sentencing guidelines call for between 46 and 57 months. Weingarten said his legal team will use witnesses and arguments to try to explain Jackson's behavior, which he admitted, is difficult even for those closest to him to understand.
"It turns out that Jesse has serious health issues," Weingarten told reporters on the courthouse steps. "Many of you know about them. We are going to talk about them extensively with the court and those health issues are directly related to his present predicament. That's not an excuse. That's just a fact. And Jesse has turned a corner there as well."
Weingarten also expressed optimism that Jackson's record of service will aid him in court.
"A man that talented, a man that devoted to public service ... who has done so much for many ... will and should get credit for it," Weingarten said.
Jackson, whose father, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and other family members joined him in court, apologized to his constituents on his way out.
“Tell everybody back home I'm sorry I let 'em down, OK?” he said.
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(Photo: WGN News)
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