WASHINGTON – Prosecutors Friday recommended four years in prison for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., following his guilty plea this year on criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.
The government suggested an 18-month sentence for Jackson's wife, Sandra, who pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that understated the couple's income.
The government is also recommending that Jackson pay $750,000 in restitution to the campaign, and that Sandra Jackson makes a restitution payment of $168,000.
Because the couple has two children, prosecutors proposed that the sentences be staggered, with Sandra Jackson going first. According to the government, Sandra Jackson could be out of prison in little over a year with credit for satisfactory behavior and required pre-release custody.
Both Jacksons are scheduled to be sentenced on July 3.
Jackson, who had been a Democratic congressman from Illinois from 1995 until he resigned last November, used campaign money to buy items that included a $43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 worth of children's furniture, and his wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas.
In Friday's 45-page sentencing memo, prosecutors urged the judge to take into account the advantages Jackson, the son of a famed civil rights leader, had in his life. Jackson "chose to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars despite having advantages in life and financial resources that few possess and that most can only dream of obtaining," the prosecutors wrote.
They noted that his yearly salary as a congressman ranged from $133,600 to $174,000, and that his wife's salary as Chicago alderman was also six figures. The memo also said that Jackson's campaign paid his wife's consulting firm $5,000 a month during the time of the conspiracy -- $340,500 in total.
"Before defendant or his wife stole a dime, they received substantial incomes," the government wrote, adding that in 2011, for example, their combined income was around $344,000 -- putting them among the nation's high earners.
"This offense, at its core, is about greed and entitlement: defendant wanting more than even his substantial resources could afford him and believing he was entitled to both the items desired and campaign funds to purchase those items," the government said.
Prosecutors also argued that Jackson's behavior threatened to deter people from making campaign contributions and participating in the political process.
In a 22-page statement filed by prosecutors in February, Jackson admitted that he and his wife used campaign credit cards to buy 3,100 personal items worth $582,772.58 from 2005 through April 2012. Personal expenditures at restaurants, nightclubs and lounges amounted to $60,857.04. Personal expenditures at sports clubs and lounges were $16,058.91, including maintaining a family membership at a gym. Spending for alcohol was $5,814.43. Personal spending for dry cleaning was $14,513.42.
Prosecutors credited Jackson with cooperating with them in the investigation, which helped the government wrap up in weeks what could have taken months. While Jackson deserves credit for accepting responsibility and his level of cooperation, the government said, he already received that significant consideration in how the plea agreement was structured.
In a separate memorandum prepared for Sandra Jackson's sentencing, prosecutors said that it's not the case that she simply knew her husband stole money and refused to report the income on their joint taxes. They said she was "personally involved" in the thefts, and they noted she served as treasurer of her husband's congressional campaign from January 2005 to November 2006. But prosecutors also credited her for cooperation and acceptance of responsibility.