Former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. will learn tomorrow if he's going to jail for misusing public funds and, if so, for how long.
Jackson is scheduled for sentencing tomorrow morning before a Washington federal trial judge. Prosecutors want him to serve four years in jail, while Jackson has asked for a "lenient" sentence below the guidelines range of 46 to 57 months.
Jackson pleaded guilty in February to being part of a scheme to defraud his congressional campaign of $750,000. He and his wife, Sandra "Sandi" Jackson, who pleaded guilty to being part of the fraud conspiracy, admitted using campaign money for a range of personal expenses, from a gold-plated Rolex watch and flat-screen televisions to dinners out and groceries.
As both sides prepared for sentencing in recent months, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson–no relation to the congressman–has been flooded with letters from Jackson's supporters and detractors. Sentencing was originally scheduled for July 3 but was postponed by the judge for unknown reasons; she said in her order that neither party asked for the delay.
Jackson's critics said the judge shouldn't be swayed by his work as a congressman, family ties-the Rev. Jesse Jackson is his father-or his history of mental illness. One Chicago resident asked the judge for a "stiff sentence" that would send a message to Jackson and other politicians. One woman wrote that the Jacksons "deserve to have the book thrown at them for their betrayal of their constituents!"
"Please send a strong message to everyone concerned: Doing bad things gets you jail time period. And lots of it," an Illinois woman wrote.
Jackson's supporters urged the judge to consider his contributions to his community and public service. Jackson "did wonderful things for his District and pushed for things that would help his district," one woman wrote. "I pray that he will not be defined by the deed he is being charged."
Vernon Jordan Jr., senior counsel to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, asked the judge to weigh Jackson's "good works against his bad acts" and consider a below-guidelines sentence. "Mr. Jackson's conduct was inexcusable, but his efforts on behalf of those less fortunate than himself should not be forgotten," he wrote. Angela Davis, a law professor at American University Washington College of Law, wrote that Jackson "has made mistakes, but he still has so much to offer his family, his community and the nation."
Jackson is already preparing for the possibility of jail time. Yesterday, his lawyers filed a notice asking the judge to recommend Jackson for a minimum-security prison in Montgomery, Ala. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, minimum security facilities feature "dormitory housing, a relatively low staff-to-inmate ratio, and limited or no perimeter fencing." The Alabama site is closest among the alternatives to Washington, Jackson's lawyers said, and would make it easier for Jackson to stay in touch with his family.
If Jackson is instead sent to a low security prison-the second-lowest security level within the federal prisons system-his lawyers asked the judge to recommend a facility in Butner, N.C., which was within 500 miles of Washington. Jackson graduated from North Carolina A&T State University and "has significant ties to the area, which he believes will aid his rehabilitation during any term of incarceration," his lawyers said.
Jackson is expected to be joined in court tomorrow by an all-star team of lawyers, including Steptoe & Johnson partners Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig and Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree Jr.
Sandra Jackson is scheduled for sentencing immediately after her husband, also before Judge Amy Berman Jackson. She is being represented by attorneys from Winston & Strawn.