Former Illinois representative Jesse Jackson Jr. continued his downward spiral as he pled guilty on Wednesday to the felony charge of misusing $750,000 in campaign funds to fund his lavish lifestyle. Among his expenditures: a $7,000 stuffed elk head and a $4,600 fedora, both bought with campaign donations.
“Guilt, your honor—I misled the American people,” said Jackson to a federal judge as he pled guilt as part of a plea bargain. Under the deal, Jackson will likely receive a prison sentence of 46 to 57 months. He will be sentenced on June 28.
“For years I lived off my campaign,” said Jackson, who was reportedly crying during much of the hearing. “I used money I shouldn’t have used for personal purposes.”
The laundry list of Jackson’s illegal purchases range from excessive to downright strange. He spent $43,350 on a gold Rolex watch, $10,000 on furniture and over $5,000 on fur capes and coats for his wife, as well as spending around $60,000 on expensive dinners. According to the New York Times, Jackson also bought over $10,000 worth of electronics and spent $313 at a Build-A-Bear store.
Some of his purchases are sure to raise eyebrows—Jackson allocated $5,000 to buy a football signed by former American presidents, $7,000 on an elk head and $4,600 on a fedora once owned by Michael Jackson.
Jackson’s wife, Sanra, also pled guilty to filing false tax returns; she failed to report $600,000 in income earned between 2006 and 2012.
Jackson was elected to Congress in 1995 at the age of 30. He was one of the most popular black politicians in the country, following in the footsteps of his father, prominent civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.
But the younger Jackson’s career took a nosedive when he was accused of bidding for the Senate seat infamously put to auction by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Problems continued during the summer 2012, when Jackson failed to report to Congress for weeks before taking medical leave. He was later confirmed to have bi-polar disorder, and he resigned in November.
US Attorney Richard Machen called the case “tragic”.
"Jesse Jackson Jr. entered public life with unlimited potential, but squandered his bright future by engaging in a self-destructive course of conduct that was staggering in both degree and scope," Machen said.
Both Jackson and his wife remain free until their June 28 sentencing.