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Jesse Jackson Jr. Leaves Prison, Enters Halfway House

  • Associated Press

FILE - Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandra, arrive at federal court in Washington.

FILE - Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandra, arrive at federal court in Washington.

Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was released from an Alabama federal prison early Thursday, two years after pleading guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal items, his father said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson described his son's release from the minimum security federal prison camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, as a "joyous reunion'' and said the younger Jackson was doing "very well.''

Jackson, 50, an Illinois Democrat, began his sentence on Nov. 1, 2013. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons lists his release date as Sept. 20, 2015. Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who visited Jackson on Monday, said Jackson would serve out the remainder of his 2 1/2-year term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house. Jackson must also spend three years on supervised release and complete 500 hours of community service.

Jackson served in Congress from 1995 until he resigned in November 2012. In June of 2012 he took medical leave for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues.

Jackson's wife, Sandra Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, was sentenced to a year in prison for filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. She must serve her term after her husband completes his sentence. The couple has two children.

According to court documents, the Jacksons spent campaign money on televisions, restaurant dinners and other costly personal items, including $43,350 on a gold-plated men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 on children's furniture.

During sentencing, the judge scolded Jackson for using campaign funds as a "piggy bank.''

Jackson's resignation ended a once-promising political career that was tarnished by unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has denied the allegations.