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Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom in Washington Wednesday to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds.

The 47-year-old son of civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. entered a negotiated plea of guilty on one felony count of conspiracy to commit false statements, wire fraud and mail fraud and could be sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Jackson and his wife, former Chicago alderwoman Sandi Jackson, ignored shouted questions from reporters at they entered the U.S. Courthouse Wednesday. A short time later, his father and other family members walked in the front of the courthouse.

Jackson Jr. was accused of spending more than $750,000 in campaign funds on entertainment and civil rights memorabilia of the late pop singer Michael Jackson, actor Bruce Lee and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., $9,600 in children’s furniture and thousands on luxury items including cashmere clothing, mink capes, fur coats and a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch, the Chicago Tribune reported.

A Jackson lawyer confirmed late Tuesday his client would enter a guilty plea and a lawyer for his wife said she could enter a guilty plea to federal tax fraud charges, most recently for tax year 2011. Both Jacksons reached plea bargains with prosecutors, WLS-TV, Chicago, reported.

“We are hopeful and we expect there will be fairness in the [sentencing] process,” said Jackson’s attorney, Reid Weingarten.

Sandi Jackson was expected to enter her plea before U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins Wednesday afternoon.

She was elected twice as alderman of Chicago’s 7th Ward even though the couple lived at their Washington townhouse much of the time.

Jackson, who took a leave of absence from Congress last June for treatment of bipolar disorder, was expected to be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands in restitution, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said. Sandi Jackson could receive up to three years.

Jackson resigned from the House of Representatives in November after 17 years representing Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District. His wife resigned as alderman in January.

The couple have a 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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