If you were caught stealing $750,000 and convicted of the crime, how much time in prison do you think you would receive? In most states, a felony of this magnitude would result in a 10+ year prison sentence.
Do you think any of your family or friends would have enough power or connections to get you a lighter sentence? Or let me ask you, do think that someone in a position of power or influence should get a lighter sentence because of who they are or the position they hold? What about a US Representative? Should they get preferential treatment because they’re an elected official?
In my opinion, our elected leadership should be the models of law abiding citizenship, and as such should be subject to harsher penalties for convictions of crimes, but that’s not the case.
Jesse Jackson Jr., son of racist activist Jesse Jackson was the Representative from Illinois in the US House of Representatives. His position gave him the impression that he was above the law, much like President Obama. In typical corrupt Chicago political tradition, Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandra believed that they could get away with using campaign contributions for their own personal pleasures.
Jackson Jr. wasn’t the brightest kid on the block when it came to money as he tried to push a stimulus package that he said would only cost $804 billion when simple math showed the total cost being $3 trillion.
By the time they were caught, the couple had pilfered $750,000 that they used for personal travel, furnishings for their home, and even for a nightclub hostess with whom he was having an affair. They also bought a gold-plated Rolex watch, furs, car repairs and numerous shopping trips to Costco.
At least Jackson Jr. was smart enough to see the writing on the wall and resigned his seat in Congress. Then both he and Sandra did their best to plea bargain down their sentence.
On Wednesday, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Sandra to a whopping 12 months in prison and Jackson Jr. to a lengthy 30 month sentence. Yep, two and half years for stealing three quarters of a million dollars. During the four hour long sentencing hearing, Judge Jackson, who made it known that she was not related, stated that Jackson should have lived up to a higher level of integrity and that he in fact did use campaign money as his ‘personal piggybank.’ Afterwards, she stated:
“There may be blurred lines for Congress to follow when their lives are political. This case did not come near those areas,” she said after a hearing that lasted more than four hours.
“This was a knowing, organized joint misconduct that was repeated over many years.”
The judge may have indicated that she wanted to be harder on the couple because they’re not living up to a higher integrity, but because they were allowed to plea bargain, constraining her desire to sentence them to longer sentences. And why were they able to work out such a soft plea bargain? I suspect it had to do with Jackson Jr. being a former congressman, along with who his dad is and the fact that he represented Obama’s Chicago neighborhood and that they were friends.
The one clear message this case sends is that if hold a position of power or prestige and are convicted of a crime, you stand a good chance of getting a slap on the wrist compared to the sentence the rest of us would get.