Thursday, November 8, 2012
Jesse Jackson Jr. in plea deal talks with feds, sources say
Sneed has learned U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who handily won re-election Tuesday despite a lengthy stay at Mayo Clinic for depression and bipolar disorder, is in the midst of plea discussions with the feds probing his alleged misuse of campaign funds.
“No one has pled guilty, but plea discussions are ongoing,” said a top Sneed source, who said Jackson is still undergoing treatment at Mayo Clinic.
Sneed is also told Jackson, who returned to Mayo Clinic after undergoing outpatient treatment in the seclusion of his home in Washington, D.C., is not only being investigated for allegedly using campaign funds to decorate his Washington home — but also Sneed hears he may also have used campaign funds to buy a $40,000 Rolex watch as a gift for a female friend.
An heir apparent to the beneficence and largesse of the Jackson dynasty, Jackson has been immersed in a cloud of federal scrutiny for the past three years.
In late 2008, Jackson, who desired the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president, was also mentioned in connection with the “pay to play” sale of that Senate slot that led to the conviction of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Jackson has always denied involvement and was never charged.
“This has been an ongoing nightmare for the Jackson family, particularly his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson, and the Reverend [his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.],” added the source, who is familiar with the campaign funds probe.
The latest FBI inquiry into Jackson’s possible misuse of campaign funds began before Jackson went on medical leave in June.
Disclosure of the new federal probe, conducted by the FBI’s Washington field office, was first reported by Sun-Times reporter Natasha Korecki last month.
In 2008, after Blagojevich was arrested, millionaire businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a Dem political fundraiser, talked to the feds. Nayak told them he, at Jackson’s request, paid for two airline trips for the congressman’s “social acquaintance” — a woman named Giovana Huidobro, a Washington restaurant hostess.
Huidobro subsequently told authorities she knew nothing of Jackson’s political dealings regarding the alleged sale of the Senate seat, but she said she flew to Chicago on several occasions for him and that Jackson sometimes reimbursed her for her travels.
As the Sun-Times reported in 2010, it did not appear Jackson, who denied any deal to buy a Senate seat, ever reported the flights for Huidobro as a gift on his House financial-disclosure statement.
In an exclusive interview in September 2010, Sandi Jackson told Sneed about her private anguish due to the “extramarital relationship” with the blonde nightclub hostess conducted by her husband — but they had decided to remain together and undergo marital counseling.
Nayak, who owns multiple outpatient surgery centers, was indicted in June on fraud and tax offenses for allegedly bribing physicians for patient referrals.
Jackson, meanwhile, is also facing a House ethics probe over his alleged involvement in the Blagojevich case.
◆ The buckshot: If Jackson, a 17-year veteran of Congress, opts to plead guilty to a federal felony — or goes to trial and is found guilty — he’d have to resign from the office he just won with a commanding 64 percent of the vote. A new election would then have to be called.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last month, “attorneys for the lawmaker recently sought assurance from senior Justice Department officials to not seek an indictment before the November election.”
The Justice Department officials “refused to make such a promise,” according to the article.
Frank Watkins, a spokesman in Jackson’s congressional office, refused to comment on the potential plea deal.