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Ohio lawmaker urges mercy for Jackson Jr., cites karaoke skills

May 07, 2013|By Katherine Skiba, Tribune reporter
  • Jesse Jackson Jr. arrives at District Court in Washington to face federal charges.
Jesse Jackson Jr. arrives at District Court in Washington to face federal… (Brian Cassella / Chicago…)

WASHINGTON — Asking for mercy for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to a federal judge last month calling Jackson intelligent, charming and entertaining — the “highlight of our karaoke nights.”

The correspondence from Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) was among 14 letters made public Tuesday as Jackson and his wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, await sentencing July 1.

Eight of the writers were sympathetic to Jackson, his wife or both. Six were not. Citizens everywhere, especially in Illinois, “are sick and tired of behavior like Rep. Jackson’s,” wrote a person who identified himself as a dentist from Wheaton.

Jesse Jackson Jr., a South Side Democrat, pleaded guilty to misusing more than $750,000 in campaign cash on a Rolex watch, celebrity memorabilia, vacations and other items. His wife pleaded guilty in a related felony case for failing to report on tax returns about $600,000 in income.

Both resigned from office before their guilty pleas. Their cases are in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Fudge, the Ohio lawmaker, noted the health problems of Jackson, who has been treated for bipolar disorder.

Even as some members of Congress saw “various signs of illness” in Jackson during the last four to five years, he continued to “work as a tireless advocate of the poor and underserved,” Fudge said.

“When things got tough or extremely difficult on the House floor, we could count on Jesse to bring levity to an otherwise daunting situation with a bad joke or a one-man skit,” she wrote. “Jesse was the highlight of our karaoke nights and always made everyone feel like an integral part of, and not apart from, various activities.”

A spokeswoman for Fudge, Ayofemi Kirby, confirmed that Fudge wrote the letter and said the lawmaker had no further comment.

Two women who identified themselves as Sandi Jackson’s cousins appealed for mercy for her. One said Sandi Jackson should be placed on probation because she “has a heart of gold” and jail time would affect the mental state and development of the couple’s two young children.

Many of the letters were addressed to Judge Robert Wilkins, who took pleas from the Jacksons but is no longer assigned to the case. The new judge on the case is U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

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