Ex-congressman Jesse Jackson Jnr accused of misuse of campaign funds

Ex-congressman son of civil rights leader spent thousands on showbiz memorabilia

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 5:53am


Former US congressman Jesse Jackson Jnr has been accused of diverting US$750,000 of campaign funds for his personal use and spending large chunk of it on showbusiness memorabilia.

He is alleged to have splashed out thousands of dollars on Bruce Lee souvenirs and a US$4,000 guitar once owned by Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen.

The Illinois Democrat, the son of the noted civil rights leader, reportedly faces up to 57 months in prison after striking a plea deal with prosecutors, one of his lawyers said.

His wife, Sandra, was also charged with submitting false tax returns, according to documents filed in US Federal Court in Washington. Sandra, who has resigned as a city legislator in Chicago, also reportedly struck a plea deal. Jackson was charged with conspiracy, making false statements and fraud.

According to court documents, Jackson had a US$43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch that he bought with campaign funds shipped to Washington from Chicago in July 2007.

Nearly two months later, Jackson obtained two pieces of Bruce Lee memorabilia with campaign funds, each for US$2,000. The next year, Jackson obtained several more pieces of memorabilia with campaign funds, buying items that once belonged to the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jnr and Bruce Lee for more than US$17,000.

In 2009, Jackson obtained significantly more memorabilia with his campaign funds.

He bought nine items that once belonged to Michael Jackson one day in August for US$17,100. The spending spree with campaign funds continued in 2010, when Jackson bought Jimi Hendrix memorabilia for US$2,775 and a fedora worn by Michael Jackson for US$4,600.

The prosecutors said Jackson would forfeit all of the items to the government.

Jackson, 47, released a statement through his lawyers apologising for his mistakes.

"Over the course of my life I have come to realise that none of us is immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties," Jackson said.

"Still, I offer no excuses for my conduct, and fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made."

The charges highlight a startling fall for Jackson, who was once a rising national star but resigned under a cloud in November after 17 years in the House of Representatives.

He took leave of absence from Congress last June to receive treatment for bipolar disorder and related depression.

Additional reporting by The New York Times