Nightly News   |  February 20, 2013

Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty to fraud

Admitting that he took money received in political contributions, former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., pleaded guilty in federal court to misusing campaign cash for personal expenses. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> former congressman jesse jackson jr . was for years considered a rising bright light among democrats in congress with a famous family name. but today he and his wife were in tears in a federal courtroom, pleading guilty to serious crimes involving campaign money. both of them now face possible prison time. our report from our justice correspondent, pete williams .

>> reporter: for jesse jackson jr ., the walk into the courthouse was the end of a slow-motion fall from grace . he told a federal judge , for years i have lived off my campaign. admitting that he took money received in political contributions and used it to make more than 3,000 separate purchases for himself and his wife over the past seven years. a $43,000 gold watch. $19,000 for one of michael jackson 's guitars. $16,000 for a pair of elk heads. tens of thousands more in furnishings for their homes in washington and chicago. total value, $750,000.

>> jesse jackson jr . had the drive, the ability and the talent to be the voice of a new generation. but he squandered that talent.

>> reporter: as he left today, jackson was apologetic.

>> not a proud day. i'm sorry i let everybody down.

>> reporter: but his lawyer says at age 47, he still has a promising future.

>> a man that talented, a man that devoted to public service , a man who has done so much for so many, has another day. there will be another chapter in jesse jackson 's life.

>> reporter: his wife, sandra, a former chicago alderman , was at the same courthouse, tearfully pleading guilty to a related charge. jesse jackson jr . will be sentenced in june, and will almost certainly face prison time, perhaps as much as four years. pete williams , nbc news, at federal court in washington.