With his lawyers seeking the least-damaging end to a federal corruption investigation against him, former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. maintained his silence Friday amid reports he had agreed to terms to plead guilty to misusing his campaign funds.
Jackson’s lawyers in Washington also declined to comment, though his legal team previously has said it was in negotiations to end the case. When he stepped down from the seat he had held for 17 years last fall, Jackson said he would “accept responsibility for my mistakes” and would cooperate with the government on a resolution.
Sources with knowledge of the situation said there had been no closed-door court hearing on the matter, no public documents filed and no court date set, making any media reports that Jackson already had entered a guilty plea premature.
It is not uncommon in public corruption probes for those facing charges to negotiate for a guilty plea and appear before a judge with an arrangement in hand, legal experts said. Neither Jackson’s lawyers nor officials at the Justice Department in Washington would comment on whether Jackson might agree to a specific sentence recommendation or whether prosecutors would make a recommendation at all.
Jackson, 47, resigned Nov. 21 after being re-elected weeks earlier to another term. Last June he had begun a mysterious medical leave of absence — first blamed on “exhaustion” — for what emerged to be bipolar disorder.
The federal investigation centered on Jackson’s finances, according to sources with knowledge of the probe, and began well over a year ago. Vendors to Jackson’s campaign were among those being questioned in the case, sources have said.
The ex-lawmaker’s wife, Sandi Jackson, who reportedly also is under federal investigation, was a Chicago alderman but stepped down Jan. 11.
Sandi Jackson over the years has received hundreds of thousands of dollars as a paid political consultant to her husband, and the couple maintained an upscale home in the nation’s capital despite her post on the City Council.
The former congressman’s father is the civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. When asked Friday about reports of a possible plea agreement, he said: “I don’t know anything about it. I’m not going to discuss my son’s health and legal challenges. I don’t have enough information.”
The reverend said he was focused on ensuring that his son followed a health regimen that included taking “medicine” and asked the public “to remain prayerful as we go through this rather painful ordeal.”
Rep. Danny Davis, a Chicago Democrat who has known Jesse Jackson Jr. for more than 20 years, said Friday he had heard the media reports, but had no independent knowledge of a plea deal.
As the case unfolds, Davis said, “it’s obviously one of the most unfortunate situations that I’ve seen in politics. It’s a sad, sad day. It’s a sad situation for the Jackson family, it’s a sad situation for the individual Jacksons involved, it’s a sad day for their supporters, and, frankly, it’s a sad day for politics because many people are cynical. They think politics is a pool of corrupt practices.”