A supporter of troubled Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. says she feels betrayed by his reported decision to negotiate a possible plea deal with federal authorities while running for re-election.
“To slap us in the face now, you just lied to us,” Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) told NBC Chicago. “You just lied to us. I feel so betrayed.”
Her comments come on the heels of a report by the Chicago Sun-Times, which cited an unnamed source in publishing word late Wednesday night of the ongoing plea deal negotiations. According to the report, Jackson, 47, may have also used campaign funds to buy a $40,000 Rolex watch for a female friend.
Austin said the voters who overwhelmingly re-elected Jackson with 64 percent of the vote to represent Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday night deserved to know the truth.
Federal prosecutors in October launched a criminal investigation of Jackson, Jr. involving financial improprieties, including possible misuse of funds monitored by Congress to decorate his home in Washington, D.C.
Jackson’s attorneys have met with federal investigators, but a criminal defense attorney unrelated to the case said he doesn’t think prosecutors cared about Tuesday’s election.
“I don’t know if they gave him a pass until after the election but then they’re not going to rush because there is an election to charge somebody either,” attorney Steven Greenberg told the TV station. “They charge you when they’re good and ready to charge you.”
Greenberg said that if Jackson is working on a plea deal, he likely would be unable to avoid prison time.
Jackson recently returned to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for treatment of bipolar disorder.
If Jackson were to resign from Congress, a special election would be held to replace him.
“He was an up-and-coming star,” said University of Illinois Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson. “He had accomplished good things for his district. He was seen by everybody as someone who was going to move onto higher office.”
The congressman’s legal problems also seem to be taking a toll on his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th). She was a no-show at Thursday’s hearing on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed city budget.
The heir apparent to the Jackson dynasty, Jackson has been shrouded in a cloud of federal scrutiny for the past three years.
In late 2008, Jackson sought the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president, but was also mentioned in connection with the “pay to play” sale of that Senate slot that led to the conviction of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Jackson has always denied involvement and was never charged.
“This has been an ongoing nightmare for the Jackson family, particularly his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson, and the Reverend [his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.],” added the source, who is familiar with the campaign funds probe.
The latest FBI inquiry into Jackson’s possible misuse of campaign funds began before Jackson went on medical leave in June.
Disclosure of the new federal probe, conducted by the FBI’s Washington field office, was first reported by Sun-Times reporter Natasha Korecki last month.
In 2008, after Blagojevich was arrested, millionaire businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a Dem political fundraiser, talked to the feds. Nayak told them he, at Jackson’s request, paid for two airline trips for the congressman’s “social acquaintance” – a woman named Giovana Huidobro, a Washington restaurant hostess.
In an exclusive interview in September 2010, Sandi Jackson told Sneed about her private anguish due to the “extramarital relationship” with the blonde nightclub hostess conducted by her husband, but added that they had decided to remain together and undergo marital counseling.
Frank Watkins, a spokesman in Jackson’s congressional office, refused to comment on the potential plea deal.