Jesse Jackson Jr. leaves after a divorce court hearing in Chicago and meeting with the media March 21, 2017. He was represented by Brendan Hammer, right. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)
Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his estranged wife and fellow ex-con, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, are $1.8 million in debt, the onetime congressman said Tuesday.
But Jackson, who is living on around $138,400 a year in federal workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance following his diagnosis with bipolar disorder and depression, said that he does not know when he will be able to get a job and that the couple will have to sell the Washington, D.C., house where Sandi lives in order to pay their lawyers.
The former congressman, 52, was speaking outside court after a routine hearing in his bitter divorce. Hearings in both Chicago, where Jackson wants the case heard, and D.C., where Sandi prefers it be fought, were held Tuesday.
"We’re about $1.8 million in debt," he told reporters after the hearing in downtown Chicago’s Daley Center. With attorneys to pay and mortgages to cover, "The largest asset that we presently have to satisfy that obligation is the (house) in Washington. And it has to be disposed of.
"My children and I survive presently on a (disability) check," he added. "It just doesn’t all equal what it should be to pan out, given our limited income. … Something has to give."
Both the Jacksons have been unemployed since serving federal prison time after Jackson looted his campaign fund to spend on luxuries including vacations, furs, celebrity memorabilia and other goods, and Sandi failed to declare much of the haul on her taxes. They own three properties: the home in South Shore where Jackson lives and a house and condo in D.C.
But Jackson said that Sandi does not want to sell the D.C. house and that the couple’s "emotionally draining" divorce prevented him from finding work. "I’d love to work," he said. "I’m doing everything I can under the circumstances to," he added, joking that he was "thinking about being a divorce lawyer."
More seriously, he said he would do whatever it takes to educate his 17-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. "If it (requires me to do) the thing I did in prison: cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, becoming a street sweeper or any other job in society that is available to me, I’m putting my daughter and my son through college," he said.
"This could have been settled out of the view of the press a long time ago, but Sandra will not return to Chicago," Jackson said. "She’s made it clear to me, she’s made it clear to members of the family and our children that she will never return to Chicago ever again."
The former congressman also snapped cellphone photographs of the media during his impromptu news conference, telling reporters he would post them on his Facebook page, where he often posts about his campaign to grant pardons to convicted felons who have served their time, such as himself, as well as lighter posts about his favorite entertainers.
Sandi had little to say after attending the D.C. hearing, which her husband attended via phone. "I’ve had better days," she said as she left the courtroom.
But her lawyer Chandra Walker Holloway charged that Jackson’s strategy was to "stall" the case so his estranged wife feels the need to settle or accept terms that are not "fair and reasonable."
The strategy is to "delay, delay, delay," Holloway said.