WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was charged Friday
with misusing hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars for personal
use -- as a long-running criminal investigation into his conduct neared
His wife, Sandra, was charged with filing false tax
returns in a separate criminal indictment, released Friday by federal
Jackson and his attorneys have been in plea
negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department, multiple media reports
indicate. The Associated Press reported Friday that an attorney for
Sandra Jackson said she had signed a plea deal with authorities.
47, resigned from Congress in November. He sought treatment twice for
bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic and had been on medical leave since
June when he stepped aside. The namesake son of the civil rights leader,
Jackson was heralded as a rising Democratic Party star when he was
first elected in 1995.
The indictment details funds splurged on a
children's furniture, a $43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch, $5,150
worth of fur capes and parkas and thousands more on memorabilia from
martial arts master Bruce Lee, hats and guitars that once belonged to
singer Michael Jackson -- along with memorabilia linked to slain civil
rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Jackson cited his health as a reason for his resignation, he had
acknowledged for the first time that he was under federal investigation
for allegedly misusing campaign funds to decorate his home and buy an
expensive watch for a friend.
In his resignation letter, Jackson
said that he was working with authorities to resolve the case. He said
he was "doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate
with the investigators and accept responsibility for my mistakes."
also had been the subject of a long-running House Ethics Committee
investigation stemming from allegations that he offered to raise money
for then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in exchange for appointment
to the U.S. Senate to succeed Barack Obama after he was elected
president in 2008. Jackson denied wrongdoing in that investigation.
than a dozen candidates are running in the special election to succeed
Jackson in the House. The Chicago-based district is heavily Democratic.
The primary is Feb. 26.
Criminal prosecutions against current or
former members of Congress for violating federal campaign-finance laws
are "rare," said Kenneth Gross, a Washington lawyer and campaign-finance
expert. "It should be rare," he said. "Most cases fall within the civil
remedies because generally there's not a willful intent to violate the
In Jackson's case, "if the allegations are true, and the
campaign money was spent on personal items, it's easier for the
prosecution to make a case," he said. "It's hard to say, 'This expensive
watch is a campaign expense.' "
Jackson's medical disorder, his
resignation from Congress and cooperation with prosecutors "could be
factors in mitigating" the amount of any prison time prosecutors seek,