Completing his shocking fall from grace, former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. reported to federal prison in North Carolina yesterday, to start his two-and-a-half year sentence for misusing campaign funds, according to a family spokeswoman.
The federal correctional facility in Butner, near Raleigh, N.C., is considered one of the cushiest federal prisons in the country, according to media reports.
North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a longtime friend who accompanied Jackson to the facility, released a statement that said, “I am happy to report that he is in good spirits, all things considered.”
In August, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman sentenced Jackson, 48, to two-and-a-half years in prison after he pleaded guilty in February to misusing roughly $750,000 in campaign funds on luxuries such as fur capes, celebrity memorabilia such as a Michael Jackson hat, mounted elk heads and a Rolex watch.
“I misled the American people. I also want to apologize to my dad and my mother,” he said as he wiped away tears. “I take responsibility for my actions and I’m very sorry for what I have done.”
Jackson’s wife, Sandi Jackson, a former Chicago city council member, was sentenced to one year for falsifying tax returns that failed to report campaign money as income. Sandi Jackson will report to prison 30 days after her husband is released to reduce the impact on the couple’s two children.
In her statement to the court, Sandi Jackson said, ”I stand before you today asking for mercy. My heart breaks every day with the pain it has caused my babies.”
The former congressman, who first entered Congress in 1995, had asked the judge recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that he serve his time at a federal prison near his family members, who live in Washington, D.C. Apparently he got his wish, going to Butner.
The odyssey of Jackson Jr. preoccupied the Chicago and national media last year, as Jackson disappeared from public view in the summer of 2012 amid intense speculation about his condition. While he initially said he was being treated for exhaustion, his doctor said in July 2012 that he was being treated for a “mood disorder.” Jackson eventually went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for six weeks to be treated for bipolar disorder.
In addition to the prison time, Jackson Jr. also was sentenced to three years supervised release and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service. Sandi Jackson was sentenced to 12 months supervised release and 200 hours of community service.
It could have been worse for Jackson: prosecutors recommended a sentence of four years for the ex-congressman and 18 months for Sandi Jackson. Prosecutors also asked in June that two of the Jacksons’ houses, in Washington and Chicago, be subject to forfeiture, along with a bank account holding $80,000, as part of a $750,000 judgment. But prosecutors amended the filing and asked that the forfeiture motion be delayed since Jackson has said he is trying to pay off the judgment.
“Jesse’s been very sick,” the elder Jackson said after the sentencing in August. “This time a year ago, I really thought we may have lost him. I think he’s strong enough now to accept the challenges put before him by the judge.”