Jesse Jackson, Jr. to leave prison today after serving 17 months for spending $750K in congressional campaign funds

Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson behind bars.

Kennedy said he spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, where the son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 ½-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on more than 3,000 personal items.

The expenditures included fur capes, lavish interior decorations for his home and rock music memorabilia.

Jackson’s plea deal was arranged just two days after he was re-elected to represent his Illinois congressional district. At the time Republicans cried foul, noting that they would have had a chance to win hsi seat if news had emerged before Election Day.

Jackson began the sentence on Nov. 1, 2013. The Bureau of Prisons lists his final release date as Sept. 20, 2015.

The disgraced lawmaker’s crime was officially described as wire and mail fraud, catch-all federal criminal categories frequently used as placeholders for financial corruption.

His wife, Sandra, was also sentenced to a year in prison in connection with the corruption scheme. She pleaded guilty to a single charge of filing a false tax return in an attempt to hide the fraud.

Court documents showed that Sandra, a Chicago city councilwoman when she was charged, had spent her husband’s campaign funds on vacations, electronics and furs.

She was ordered to pay $22,000 in restitution, in addition to the $750,000 her husband had to pay back.

The U.S. Marshals Service seized all the items purchased illegally and auctioned everything to repay what they stole. Also sold was their richly decorated Washington, D.C. townhouse.

The haul included one of the late singer Michael Jackson’s fedoras and a guitar reportedly signed by both Michael Jackson and rock star Eddie Van Halen.

In an unusual arrangement, a federal judge allowed Mrs. Jackson to avoid reporting to prison until her husband’s release so that their children would not lose both parents at once.

She will likely begin serving her sentence in September.

Kennedy said he was in the area giving a speech on children’s mental health and decided to visit Jackson on Monday.

‘You can imagine my surprise when I’m there, and I’m talking to him, and he says, “I’m leaving Thursday morning”,’ Kennedy said.

He said Jackson, 50, told him he would be picked up from prison by his wife, Sandra; his two children; his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson; and his mother, Jacqueline Jackson. His family will then take him to the halfway house.

‘He said he’d have to report with his probation officer and he’d have to get some kind of job and start to put his life back together,’ Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he had not seen Jackson since August 2012, when he visited him at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota after Jackson took a leave from Congress and checked himself in for bipolar disorder. Kennedy has been an outspoken advocate on mental health issues.

The two men served as Democrats in Congress together, and both have famous fathers. Kennedy’s father was the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross said he could not confirm that Jackson would be released to a halfway house, saying the bureau does not consider such plans public information.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson directed inquiries to the Bureau of Prisons. He confirmed that Kennedy had met with his son.

Messages left for attorneys for Jackson Jr. were not immediately returned.

Kennedy said Jackson’s mental health is much better than the last time he saw him at the Mayo Clinic.

Kennedy said Jackson had even put a positive spin on his time in prison, saying it had allowed him to ‘unplug’ from the world.

‘He’s a lot more at ease with his role and responsibility with what got him into jail,’ Kennedy said. He added that Jackson ‘feels he’s done his time.’

Kennedy said they also talked about what’s next.

‘He’s also very excited about what lies ahead for him in the future, which I think is very hopeful,’ he said.

Source: The DailyMail

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