WASHINGTON — Disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who pleaded guilty last week to misusing $750,000-plus in campaign money, is writing a memoir, two sources familiar with the project told the Tribune.
Jackson, 47, will be sentenced June 28 after a seven-year spree in which he used the illicit money for a Rolex watch, celebrity memorabilia, furs, a cruise and two stuffed elk heads, among other purchases.
Jackson, who has bipolar disorder, took a medical leave of absence from Congress in June and resigned in November.
One of the Tribune's sources, who has seen drafts of portions of the memoir, said Jackson was trying to "clear up his legacy."
"He has nothing else to do right now," the source said. "He's desperately trying to change the narrative of his life story."
Putting pen to paper is nothing new for people in trouble with the law. While former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was awaiting trial, he wrote "The Governor," a book in which he blamed his downfall on overzealous prosecutors and political enemies.
Blagojevich was convicted of crimes including trying to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate in exchange for campaign cash — and prosecutors said top fundraisers for Jackson, while not charged in that case, offered the then-governor as much as $6 million in campaign dollars to give him the spot.
On Feb. 20, Jackson, a Democrat from Chicago, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. His wife, Sandi Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, pleaded guilty that same day to separate charges of filing false tax returns.
He faces 46 to 57 months in prison and his wife faces one to two years behind bars, according to federal sentencing guidelines. Her sentencing is July 1. The cases are in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Although he is already a published author, Jackson might face an uphill climb to find a find a publisher now, according to Gail Ross, a lawyer and literary agent in Washington.
"To get big money you'd need a publisher who is really, really interested in his story," Ross said. "Most people I work with don't want to line the pockets of a crook.
"Maybe someday he'll write the redemption story, but he can't write the redemption story until he's redeemed," Ross added. "Redemption has to be beyond the magnitude of the crimes."
Jackson wrote a book of financial advice called "It's About the Money" with his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in 1999. The son, with an aide, wrote a 2001 book, "A More Perfect Union," which proposed constitutional amendments dealing with employment, affordable housing, health care, fair taxes and other priorities.
Ross said that because the younger Jackson just acknowledged committing serious crimes, publishers will be wary. "If he pleaded guilty, his publisher is not going to be looking for his next book," she said.
Jackson, in his plea agreement, said he would pay a judgment of $750,000 and would forfeit to the government any property traceable to his offenses. He also faces a fine of $10,000 to $100,000.
Jackson's lawyers and spokesmen did not return calls Tuesday for comment.