WASHINGTON — Lawyers for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who will be sentenced July 3 for looting his campaign treasury of about $750,000, said Monday that if both Jackson and his wife, Sandi Jackson, are sent to prison, he’d like to serve first.
In a filing in federal court, his lawyers also said Jackson Jr., 48, has no income other than Social Security payments and a federal pension.
“If he serves his period of incarceration first, Mrs. Jackson would be able to work and could stabilize the family’s finances,” they said.
The defense lawyers said Jackson Jr.’s payments would be suspended if he is incarcerated, but it was unclear whether they meant the Social Security checks or the pension. They did not respond to requests for comment.
The family is “in significant financial peril,” according to his lawyers, who said his “health issues preclude him from working at this time.” Earlier, his lawyers said he suffers from severe depression and bipolar disorder.
Defense lawyers for Sandi Jackson, in a court filing late Monday, insisted that she should be put on probation. They said the couple’s children “do not simply need to maintain their family residence or some semblance of a family unit.”
The pleading went on, italicizing these words: “They need their mother.”
It continued by saying that Sandi Jackson’s life, as observed by people “over the course of previous decades,” had been characterized by “kindness, compassion and generosity to her childhood community, to her extended family and to her friends.”
The request for probation, her lawyers said, was to allow Sandi Jackson to “minister to the pain and loss that her children have already suffered and will doubtlessly continue to suffer in the weeks and months ahead.”
The Jacksons are too young for Social Security retirement checks. But Social Security pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition expected to last at least a year, and certain family members also may receive payments, the agency says.
Jackson Jr. began a medical leave of absence last June, won re-election in November and resigned later that month.
As sentencing nears, his mental health and financial situation are being debated because federal prosecutors want Jackson Jr. to forfeit $750,000, money representing the ill-gotten proceeds of his crimes, and to make restitution of $750,000.
Defense attorneys want only the forfeiture. “Mr. Jackson should not be double-assessed forfeiture and restitution,” they said. They also asked the judge not to order a fine — another potential hit — even though sentencing guidelines call for one in the range of $10,000 to $100,000.
“Due to his health issues and the possibility of incarceration, Mr. Jackson has no earning capacity and will have none until completion of any sentence ordered by the court,” his lawyers said. “A fine will impose a great burden on Mr. Jackson, Mrs. Jackson and their two minor children.”
The children are ages 9 and 13.
The defense lawyers cited a draft report by federal probation officials showing the couple’s net worth is lower than $750,000, “largely made up of the equity in their homes in Chicago and Washington, two retirement accounts and their automobiles.”
An individual retirement account held by Jackson Jr. is worth $39,042, defense lawyers said; they did not disclose the value of other assets.
The South Side Democrats have asked for leniency. She wants probation; he wants a term lower than recommended under the guidelines, which call for 46 to 57 months.
Federal prosecutors said on June 7 that Sandi Jackson should serve her term first. On Monday, they sought to refute the notion that he merits a lighter sentence and she deserves probation because of their good works while in office.
Calling the pair highly compensated elected officials whose job it was to represent and assist constituents, prosecutors said: “The case law is clear that one should not get credit at sentencing merely for doing one's job as a public servant.”