Former Illinois U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. entered a North Carolina prison Tuesday to begin serving a 2 1/2-year term for illegally spending $750,000 in campaign money on everything from cigars to a gold watch — a day after he tried but failed to get into the federal complex.
In an odd twist to Jackson’s long-running legal saga, the 48-year-old had sought to enter the Butner Correctional Center Monday but was turned away because of “a snafu,” C.K. Hoffler, an Atlanta-based attorney who had accompanied the Chicago Democrat, told reporters Tuesday evening.
“He was ready to pay his debt,” she said during a news conference in Atlanta about why the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson chose to report days earlier than required. “The sooner he reported, the sooner he’d be able to get back home to his children to begin the process of healing.”
Jackson bid farewell to his wife, Sandi, and two children on Sunday, in Washington, D.C., then went to the prison in a heavily wooded area 30 miles north of Raleigh Monday afternoon. But his attorney had to return hours later to pick up Jackson when prison officials called her and said an administrative obstacle would delay processing him, she said.
Jackson spent the night at a hotel, then reported to the prison again — this time successfully — around 10 a.m. Tuesday, Hoffler said.
Jackson, now Inmate No. 32451-016, was in custody as of Tuesday morning, said Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke, who declined to provide additional details.
Hoffler said someone representing Jackson had let prison officials know in advance of his plan to report on Monday. “He didn’t just show up,” she added.
Court documents were never clear about when Jackson had to report. In her sentencing order this year, Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said only that he would have to surrender to prison authorities “no earlier” than Nov. 1.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, also accompanied Jackson to the prison Monday, Hoffler said. Butterfield was quoted as saying in a statement, “I am happy to report that he is in good spirits, all things considered.”
By quietly reporting, Jackson avoided the crush of media that swirled around other prison-bound Illinois politicians. For example, when Rod Blagojevich reported to a Colorado prison last year to serve a 14-year term for corruption, helicopters hovered above and cars filled with journalists trailed the former Illinois governor.