Federal prosecutors should leave Sandi Jackson alone.
I don’t know if Jackson broke the law or if she’s just a scapegoat in a political take-down, but I’m only thinking about her school-age children while this high-profile drama unfolds.
Jackson, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, is reportedly the target of a separate criminal investigation for her role in her husband’s campaign finance mess.
Jesse Jackson Jr. is already being investigated by federal authorities for possible misuse of campaign funds, which includes a $40,000 Rolex watch he allegedly gave to a close female friend.
And now, according to The Chicago Sun-Times, Jesse Jr. could be facing “significant jail time” as a part of a plea deal with federal agents. “Significant jail time is now definitely a part of the deal,” a source close to the investigation told the Sun-Times.
“But I think Sandi feels like she was thrown under the bus by her husband,” now that a separate probe has started on her, another source added.
So as a father, here’s my concern: The Jacksons have two young children. And even though the couple hasn’t been charged with a crime, Jackson Jr. could end up in prison.
When is the last time a black married couple was jailed for breaking campaign finance laws? I can’t recall such a scenario.
I believe it would be irresponsible for federal prosecutors to incarcerate both Jacksons and risk taking them away from their children, leaving the kids without both parents.
While prosecutors debate whether the Jacksons are corrupt, there should be some thoughtful discussion about how these investigations will impact the Jackson’s children and the heavy emotional toll the kids will endure, perhaps for years to come.
The cynics will say the Jacksons should have thought about their children before they got caught up in a federal probe, but the truth is their children didn’t ask to be put in this situation – it just suddenly came crashing down around them.
In the meantime, Sandi Jackson, who resigned from her position as a Chicago Alderman last month, has retained her own legal counsel, Dan Webb, and a source told the Sun-Times that federal authorities are “trying to figure out exactly what to do” with her.
And according to the Sun-Times, “Sandi Jackson claims she was stunned by campaign finance abuse disclosures against her husband.” Sandi Jackson told NBC last year that there was a $69,000 discrepancy between campaign finance reports issued by her office and Jesse Jr’s office and she blamed the problem on clerical errors.
So do federal agents really have enough evidence on Sandi Jackson to bring her to trial or are they trying to make examples of the Jacksons because they were a high-flying couple who have now fallen from grace? Or are they simply using Sandi Jackson as a pawn to force Jesse Jr. into a plea deal?
Jesse Jr., 47, has been treated for bipolar disorder, and cited ill health as his reason for stepping down from Congress last year. He also acknowledged in a resignation letter a continuing federal criminal investigation.
“For 17 years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy and life to public service,” Jackson wrote in the letter to Speaker John A. Boehner. “However, over the past several months, as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish. Against the recommendations of my doctors, I had hoped and tried to return to Washington and continue working on the issues that matter most to the people of the Second District. I know now that will not be possible.”
But many black Democrats who supported Jesse Jr. over the years now feel like Jackson deceived them.
“To slap us in the face now, you just lied to us,” Chicago Alderwoman Carrie Austin told reporters last year. “You just lied to us. I feel so betrayed.”
Clearly, Jesse Jr. and Sandi Jackson are tangled in a legal thicket and Jesse Jr. could serve time behind bars. But federal authorities shouldn’t make orphans out of the Jackson’s children by trying to jail Sandi Jackson, too.