CHICAGO (AP) — Residents in this swath of sprawling Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs have brimmed with loyalty to Jesse Jackson Jr. over the past 17 years, giving him an enthusiastic majority each election — even after questionable links to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, reports of an extramarital affair and a bizarre five-month medical leave.
But the former congressman's guilty plea to charges that he lived off and lavishly spent campaign money for personal use — on everything from toilet paper to mink capes — has turned the tide. In territory where it was difficult to scrape up any criticism of Jackson, his Chicago alderman wife or his famous civil rights leader father, the mood is now simply one of disappointment.
"He knew better; it was a very stupid thing to do," said 75-year-old Jeannette Reese, shaking her head as she grocery-shopped at a busy shopping complex. "He and his father came to our church. I thought he was the real thing."
Reese said she had voted for the younger Jackson for years.
Jackson, who resigned from office in November, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Washington to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces up to 57 months — more than four years — in prison and a fine, under a plea deal with prosecutors.
It was an emotional day for Jackson, 47, who held back tears as he addressed the federal judge, just hours before his wife pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. She faces up to two years in prison and a fine.
"I did these things," Jackson told the judge, adding later, "Sir, for years I lived in my campaign."