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Ex-congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. reports to prison

October 29, 2013

CHICAGO (AP) — Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has entered a federal prison to begin serving a 2 1/2-year prison term for illegally spending $750,000 in campaign money on everything from cigars to mounted elk heads and a gold watch, a prison official said Tuesday.

Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, was in federal custody as of Tuesday morning as Inmate No. 32451-016, according to Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke. He declined to say exactly when the former Illinois congressman reported.

Jackson, 48, was once a rising star in the Democratic party and an early supporter of President Barack Obama, who served the Illinois state Senate and then represented the state in the U.S. Senate.

During the 2008 presidential race, Jackson came to Obama’s defense when Jackson’s famous father was caught on tape criticizing the candidate. And if Jackson had chosen to run for the U.S. Senate seat that Obama won in 2004, Obama might have remained stuck in the Illinois state Senate.

Jackson reported to Butner Correctional Center near Raleigh, North Carolina, said Ed Ross, another prison spokesman.

Federal prison guidelines indicate the former legislator with a fondness for luxury will be assigned a cell — possibly sharing a room with other convicts — and a menial job working for less than a dollar an hour. His fellow inmates include Wall Street fraudster Bernie Madoff.

Jackson’s wife, Sandi, was given a yearlong sentence for filing false tax returns. In a concession to their two school-aged children, the judge allowed the Jacksons to stagger their sentences.

Jackson used campaign money to buy a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch and $9,587.64 on children’s furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. His wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas, according to court documents.

Jackson represented his Chicago-area constituents in the House from 1995 until he resigned last November following months of speculation about his health and legal problems.

A joint filing last week from defense lawyers and prosecutors indicated Jackson plans to sell his home in Washington to help pay a $750,000 forfeiture judgment. It also said the cash-strapped Jackson would need more time to come up with money to pay the judgment.

One high-profile bid in which Jesse Jackson tried to raise money has already fallen through. A September online auction organized by the U.S. Marshals Service to sell part of his celebrity memorabilia collection was cancelled after a few days when someone questioned the authenticity of a guitar purportedly signed by Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen. The ex-congressman had paid $4,000 in campaign funds for it.

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Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm

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