Congressman Bobby Rush has submitted a letter that asks President Joe Biden to pardon former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., and his ex-wife Sandi Jackson years after legal troubles sent them to jail and ended Jackson Jr.’s political career.
From 1995 to 2012, Jesse served Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District before he resigned after pleading guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign funds on sports memorabilia, fur capes and other items. At the time Jackson Jr. struggled with gastric bypass surgery and bipolar disorder.
Sandi Jackson who served as alderman for Chicago’s 7th Ward from 2007 to 2013, pleaded guilty to filing false income tax returns. The couple eventually divorced and Jackson never returned to public life.
In a letter to the White House on July 19, Rush asked President Biden to pardon the former couple, saying,
“As legislators with a long history of public service, Jesse and Sandi, like all of us, were not without flaws. Both, however, took responsibility for their actions.
“Following their guilty pleas for illegally using campaign funds, Jackson Jr. was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Both have served their sentences and paid full restitution for their crimes. Since their release, Jesse and Sandi have led their lives as law-abiding citizens, focusing on the growth and well-being of their two children.
“It is also worth noting that [the] Jacksons are not, themselves, advocating for a pardon. This is because of a commitment they made to the many men and women they met while incarcerated that they would stand at the back of the line of those living with felons today. That is why I feel compelled to make this request on their behalf.”
The eldest son of Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., Jesse Jackson, Jr., was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps as a civil rights leader. He was groomed to lead a life of public service with support from his mother, Jacqueline Jackson. Charismatic and articulate like his father, Jesse Jackson, Jr., was elected to Congress in 1995 and campaigned for jobs and economic development in his district. He built the reputation of a passionate congressman who never missed a floor vote. He nearly missed his great-grandmother’s funeral because of his stellar attendance record. In 1997, he was named as “100 people to watch” by Newsweek magazine.
After legal troubles ended Jackson Jr.’s political career, he and Sandi divorced in 2016. Sources over the years told the Crusader that Jackson Jr. has no desire to return to public service. His younger brother, Jonathan Jackson, in June won the Democratic Primary for 1st Congressional District and is expected to replace Congressman Rush, who endorsed activist Karen Northington Reeves.
A presidential pardon does not expunge one’s criminal record, but the act is a form of forgiveness that helps an individual to move on with his or her life.
In his letter to Biden, Congressman Rush said Jesse Jackson Jr. was “instrumental in the fight for representation, sponsoring legislation to place a statue of Rosa Parks in the U.S. Capitol and co-leading the legislation to name the great hall of the Capitol Visitor Center as Emancipation Hall.
“Also while in Congress, Jesse was a fierce advocate for his Congressional District, fighting to bring $2 billion in Federal funding home to his constituents.
“Mr. President, you and I both served with Jesse in Congress. We know him as a passionate, brilliant patriot who made a mistake. He has since atoned for this mistake, and we should not let it be a scarlet letter that hangs over the rest of his life. Additionally, you have known his wife, Sandi, for over 30 years beginning with her services as a congressional staffer for the late U.S. Representative Mickey Leland.”
The letter also praises Sandi Jackson who, as “Alderman for the city of Chicago, served the constituents of the 7th Ward, representing one of the most impoverished areas on the city’s South Side.
“Mrs. Jackson was instrumental in building two LEED-certified schools while ushering in commercial development in food deserts throughout her ward. During her term, she led the charge for reduced class sizes in Chicago’s Public School system, adult literacy classes, and increased mental health resources throughout her ward.”
In 2019, Black leaders were outraged as they compared Jesse Jackson, Jr’s, prison sentence to the light punishment of Congressman Aaron Schock of the 18th Congressional District, which includes Peoria and Springfield.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Schock in exchange for good behavior after he spent taxpayer money to fund lavish trips and events. In 2015, Politico reported Schock spent thousands of dollars from his office account on private flights, legal expenses, new cars, tickets to the Super Bowl and Country Music Awards, as well as cufflinks, massages, “gold equipment” and cigars.
Schock resigned in 2015 after serving two terms in Congress. As part of the deal, Schock paid $100,000 in restitution.
Schock also made national headlines when he paid a decorator to transform his office to look like the hit English drama “Downton Abbey.”