Sandi Jackson given 21 days to answer argument about Chicago ties

SHARE Sandi Jackson given 21 days to answer argument about Chicago ties

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi, arrive at federal court in Washington in 2013 for their sentencing. | Susan Walsh/AP file photo

Sandi Jackson has been given three weeks to answer her estranged husband’s argument that their contentious divorce case should be heard in Chicago in part because she launched her political career here and paid the sewer and water bills on their South Shore home while Jesse Jackson Jr. was in prison.

The ruling Friday came as Jesse Jackson Jr.’s lawyers suggested the divorce could wind up being a long, costly affair for the couple, already $1.8 million in debt, according to the former congressman.

On Sandi Jackson’s ties to Chicago, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s attorney had argued the former alderman’s lawyers were taking too long to respond to a “simple issue” — and later told reporters he believed it was a stalling tactic designed to ensure the case is heard in Washington, D.C.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Carole Bellows on Friday ruled that Sandi Jackson’s attorneys must respond within 21 days to her husband’s motion citing her Chicago connections as a legal basis to have the case heard here.

The motion, filed March 14, argued Sandi Jackson’s political history and ties to the South Shore home were sufficient evidence that the couple’s increasingly contentious divorce case should be heard in Chicago. Her husband cited her political history, payment of utility bills and that she let her sister stay in the house for “extended periods.”

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s lawyers also accused Sandi Jackson of claiming Chicago is home only when it was “advantageous to her political career.”

So far, the arguments have largely focused on where the divorce case should be heard. Sandi Jackson is hoping for the case to be resolved in Washington — where she’s living with their two children, ages 13 and 16. Jesse Jackson Jr., however, is fighting to keep the case in Chicago where his attorneys say “acts” were committed that led to the divorce.

The couple’s Chicago case is slowly trudging on. The arguments heard thus far have only been about jurisdiction, not even touching upon some of the more sensitive issues such as child support and alimony.

“This could go on for a while,” Jackson Jr.’s attorney Brendan Hammer told reporters at the Daley Center. “Unless the parties come to some sort of settlement between them, this could be a very lengthy litigation in either venue.”

Hammer also warned about the costs incurred in the dual-city divorce, saying the two are racking up attorney fees to pay for four attorneys in both cases.

“This is a costly proposition for them,” Hammer said.

Jackson Jr. last week said he and his estranged wife Sandi Jackson are $1.8 million in debt thanks to legal bills from their federal criminal prosecution and mounting fees from an acrimonious divorce playing out in courtrooms in two cities.

Sandi Jackson’s attorney declined to comment to reporters.

After a public war of words between divorce attorneys for Jackson Jr. and Sandi Jackson over the child-support payments for their two children in Washington, D.C., courtrooms, the former congressman on Monday volunteered to up his payments by $1,200 a month. Although a judge in D.C. must still agree to the change, Jesse Jackson’s attorney on Monday filed the request — saying the initial request to reduce the payment from $1,529 to $329 was “sincere and well-founded” but that it “should” go back up to $1,529.

That amount has already been paid for March.

The Chicago case will be heard again on April 28, the same date that Jesse Jackson Jr. is expected to appear for a hearing in the divorce case in Washington, D.C.

Both Jacksons pleaded guilty in August 2013 to various schemes relating to the looting of his congressional campaign fund. The former South Side 7th Ward alderman and the former 2nd Congressional District lawmaker each went to prison for diverting $750,000 from campaign funds for their personal use between 2005 and 2012.

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