The court filing was a clear signal that Jackson, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in the mid-1990s, intended to plead guilty to the charge, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. No court date has been set.
Jackson’s expected plea would be another mile marker in his slow political and personal collapse, which began shortly after President Obama’s 2008 election. That had seemed to open up possibilities for Jackson, considered a likely successor to Obama in the Senate.
Instead, FBI agents arrested then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and charged him with trying to sell the interim appointment to the Senate seat from Illinois to the highest bidder, and Jackson was implicated in the scandal. Though not charged, he would never recover politically.
According to the documents released Friday, Jackson used campaign funds to buy a $43,350 gold Rolex watch along with almost $10,000 in children’s furniture that he had delivered to his home in the District.
Among other allegations, prosecutors say Jackson made direct expenditures of about $57,793 from the campaign’s accounts for personal expenses. The documents say he and a co-conspirator used a campaign credit card to make $582,773 worth of purchases for their own use.
Jackson’s wife, former Chicago alderman Sandra Stevens Jackson, was not named or charged in that case, but the description makes clear that she was the co-conspirator.
“That’s a big number as these things go,” said Stan Brand, a former House counsel who has represented defendants in this type of case. “That obviously isn’t the kind of case you would risk putting in front of a jury. That’s why people plead.”
The details of the case against Jackson were part of a document known as a “criminal information,” which cannot be filed without the consent of the defendant and which signals that a plea agreement is near.
Jackson’s wife was charged with filing false income-tax returns from 2006 through 2011, according to a separate criminal information in her case. That charge has a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Attempts to reach the Jacksons for comment were unsuccessful, but news reports in the Chicago media quote statements, issued by their attorneys, in which the pair take responsibility for their conduct.
Through a representative, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jackson’s father, declined to comment on the charges.
The criminal documents outline a series of illegal expenditures from the former congressman’s campaign account, including more than a dozen purchases of pop-culture artifacts that firmly establish him as someone who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s: