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.”
Battle lines also are being drawn over his psychiatric issues.
His lawyers have said he needs intense, ongoing treatment and assert he is unlikely to get suitable care if sent to prison. Psychiatric research has tied compulsive purchasing and spending to mood episodes in individuals with bipolar disorders, they said.
Prosecutors, though, pointed out that Jackson Jr. has given the sentencing judge letters from only two doctors who conclude he needs ongoing treatment. But the doctors do not say what that treatment would entail — for example, the frequency of counseling sessions and details about medications — and their letters total a combined three and a half pages, prosecutors noted.
The prosecution sought to refute the idea Jackson Jr. could not get appropriate health care while in prison, citing a letter from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ psychology services administrator and its chief of psychiatry.
They also said defense lawyers had not shown a link between Jackson’s mental condition and his compulsive buying and noted his crimes involve about 3,100 illegal transactions.
The Jacksons, both of whom have law degrees, struck separate plea deals with prosecutors. He acknowledged pilfering his war chest from 2005 to 2012 and spending the money on a Rolex watch, furs, cashmere, celebrity memorabilia, two mounted elk heads and other items.
She acknowledged failing to report about $600,000 in income the two had during tax years 2005-2011.
Jackson Jr., a 17-year veteran of Congress, served from 1995 until he quit. Sandi Jackson, 49, served on the Chicago City Council from 2007 until she resigned in January.
They will be sentenced by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is no relation, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.