There was dispute between government and defense lawyers about where Sandi Jackson would fall under federal sentencing guidelines, which the judge is not bound to follow. On the high end, favored by the government, she would face a prison term of 18 to 24 months, while her lawyers are pushing for a sentencing guideline of 12 to 18 months.
The couple have two young children, who lived with them in Washington and attended school there, despite their mother serving for years on the Chicago City Council. Acosta, the former federal prosecutor, said it is not unheard of in case involving convicted couples with young children for one spouse to have his or her sentence deferred until the other spouse finishes serving a sentence.
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Dan Webb, Sandi Jackson's attorney and a former top federal prosecutor in Chicago, told reporters following his client's court appearance that Jackson had faced a "hard decision" to plead guilty rather than fight the charges against her. Despite documents detailing her central role in the conspiracy, Webb downplayed her offenses.
"She made the decision to plead guilty today to a one-tax charge, and that's the only thing she pleaded guilty to," Webb said.
The downward spiral of a politician who had been one of Chicago's favorite sons began in 2008 when his name surfaced in the Chicago corruption case against then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Prosecutors alleged top fundraisers for him offered as much as $6 million in campaign cash if Blagojevich would name Jackson to replace the newly elected president, Barack Obama, in the Senate.
Jackson has denied knowledge of that offer. The U.S. attorney in Washington, Ronald Machen Jr., said the criminal case that felled Jackson was not referred to Washington out of the Blagojevich matter.
Machen declined to specify when the investigation began or if it was an outgrowth of an ethics probe of Jackson when he was in the House.
Jackson's misdeeds were a betrayal of the public trust, he said, especially since he spent campaign funds on "items of excess" such as fur coats and music memorabilia. Prosecutors outlined about 3,100 personal purchases in all.
"The people of Illinois' 2nd Congressional District and the American people deserve better from our political leaders," Machen said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, typically outspoken on a wide variety of issues, offered no comment at federal court on Wednesday.
Neither did his son or Sandi Jackson, who left her hearing holding hands, Sandi still with tears in her eyes.
Katherine Skiba and Wes Venteicher reported from Washington, with Jeff Coen in Chicago. Tribune reporters David Heinzmann, John Chase, David Kidwell and Kim Geiger in Chicago contributed.