Jesse Jackson Jr. Sentenced . . . But Who Got Punished?
Former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. was sentenced yesterday in Chicago to 30 months in prison and a 36-month term of supervised release. He will surrender to prison on November 1st. In addition, his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Notably, they will not serve their prison terms at the same time.
Last February Mr. Jackson had pleaded guilty to charges he looted and spent $750,000 of campaign funds for personal items – spa treatments, vacations, household supplies, and celebrity memorabilia – as well as charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and false statements. Mrs. Jackson had pleaded guilty to tax fraud.
The charge that Mr. Jackson attempted to buy a seat in the U.S. Senate had been dropped.
“You stand here not just because you violated the law, but because you violated the trust of the people. . . . Your conduct stained . . . the way all elected officials are viewed,” Judge Amy Berman said sternly.
While denying leniency for Mrs. Jackson, Judge Berman seemed to soften slightly, allowing the two defendants to serve their prison sentences one after the other, for the sake of their children. Additionally, she said she may consider requests submitted by defense counsel, to allow the defendants to serve their prison terms as far away as possible from Chicago – he in Alabama, she in Florida.
However, there has been an outcry that the sentencing was unfair, that it was light and not befitting the crime, that sentencing guidelines were not met.
Just ask the brother of imprisoned former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Robert Blagojevich: “It’s out of balance. [Jackson’s] sentence . . . makes [my brother’s sentence] disproportionately unbalanced and severe.”
Critics also point to the sentences of other high-profile personalities, personalities such as Elliot Spitzer, who appealed to – and received – the mercy and forgiveness of justice.
But what about the majority of defendants? They are not high-profile; they are “under the radar” of public and judicial attention. Often they receive mandatory maximum sentences far in excess of the crimes they are charged with committing. And often these crimes are less severe. Too bad they don’t have the same voice which a few seem to enjoy.
As criminal defense lawyers, The Blanch Law Firm applauds the light sentencing the Jacksons received. We work hard for our clients. That’s our job; that’s what we are dedicated to – to believe in and to defend them, and to effect the best-possible outcome in court. We are “the voice” for our clients.
But we also applaud Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent mandate, to lessen non-violent drug offender sentences (no mandatory minimum prison sentencing).
“I have mandated a modification of the Justice Department’s charging policies so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders . . . will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”
The Blanch Law Firm believes it’s a start, a start to bringing sentencing guidelines into balance with the facts and circumstances – and to energizing the qualities of mercy and forgiveness for every defendant in our justice system.