Sandi Jackson is seeking sole custody of the children, child support, alimony and “exclusive use and possession” of the home she formerly shared with Jesse Jackson Jr. in Washington, D.C.
The former congressmen is playing his cards closer to his vest. His lawyer compared it to “a chess game” that he is trying to keep from turning into a “battle royale.”
But before all the specifics are decided in the potentially volatile divorce case, the lawyers will argue whether it will play out in Chicago, where the two were both elected officials, or in Washington, D.C., where each pleaded guilty to crimes involving political campaign funds and were sent to prison, newly obtained court records show.
The disgraced former congressman wants the case to be heard in Cook County, where his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and siblings have been powerful community activists and businesspeople.
His wife, a former South Side alderman raised in Ohio, prefers Washington D.C., where the couple are raising their two young children and have a house in the DuPont Circle neighborhood.
Each have filed separate divorce cases in those venues, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
The lawyers will make their arguments for each location at a hearing before a Cook County judge set for Jan. 4, according to court records.
The stakes are enormous.
Sandi Jackson, 53, wants sole custody of their two children — ages 13 and 16 — and child support, according to court documents. She also calls for alimony, claiming she “does not have the ability to be fully self supporting,” her divorce filings state without explaining why.
She is also seeking “exclusive use and possession” of the couple’s Washington home, as well mortgage, utilities and property taxes to be covered.
And she calls for the equitable division of financial accounts, property, debt, furniture and furnishings. The couple also own a studio in Washington and a home in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.
The divorce filing calls for her husband to be restrained from “selling, secreting, giving away, or otherwise disposing of or encumbering assets,” according to divorce documents she filed in Washington on Nov. 3.
Jesse Jackson Jr., 51, filed for a separate divorce in Cook County four months earlier, in July.
His wife learned about it while incarcerated for filing a false federal income tax return. She completed her prison term in October.
Sandi Jackson does not give a reason for the divorce in documents filed by her attorney, who could not be reached Tuesday.
Documents filed on behalf of Jesse Jackson Jr. cite “irreconcilable differences” as the reason — a purposefully vague explanation.
“My client is trying to keep this a private matter,” said his attorney, Barry Schatz.
“Right now if two people are living separate for a period of six months they can get a ‘no fault divorce’ in which no one has to assign blame,” Schatz said.
The couple married in 1991 and separated in the spring of 2016. They have not lived together since October of last year, court records state.
“We’re trying to protect the children if we can. We’re trying to keep this calm for the benefit of the family,” Schatz said.
“But we can always change our strategy. We’ll see what happens,” Schatz said, adding that “depending upon reaction and action, there will be a reaction.
“It’s like a chess game right now,” he said.
Jesse Jackson Jr. subpoenaed copies of his wife’s emails sent from prison, as well as text messages and call records from her Verizon cellphone dating back to January 2011, court documents show.
Schatz said the desire to have divorce proceedings take place in Chicago was “a tactical issue because of witnesses that are here as opposed to having to fly them to D.C.”
In arguing for the proceedings to take place in Washington, Sandi Jackson points out in court documents that the nation’s capital is where they file their taxes and have bank accounts, where her husband is registered to vote, and where their probation officers are based.
It’s also the home of their children and “the only state with jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination,” court documents state.
Schatz counters that his client lives in his South Shore home.
Sandi and Jesse Jackson both pleaded guilty in August 2013 to various schemes relating to the looting of his congressional campaign fund. They each went to prison for diverting $750,000 from campaign funds for their personal use between 2005 and 2012.
The former congressman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit false statements and mail and wire fraud.
A judge allowed the Jacksons to stagger their sentences so one parent could remain with their son and daughter.
The former congressman was given a 30-month sentence, but with time off for good behavior and completion of a substance-abuse program, he served only 23 months ending in September 2015 to return to Washington, D.C.
Sandi Jackson went to prison after that, serving a one-year sentence.
Before his indictment, Jackson Jr. had made headlines for his role in the criminal case against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who eventually was convicted for crimes including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Jackson, who’d lobbied Blagojevich to appoint him to the seat, denied any wrongdoing and was never charged in that case. But the FBI did interview a Washington, D.C., restaurant hostess named Giovana Huidobro — whom Jackson acknowledged was a “social acquaintance” — as part of its probe.
Huidobro told authorities she knew nothing of Jackson’s political dealings regarding the Senate seat, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2010. She also said she flew to Chicago on several occasions at Jackson’s request and that Jackson sometimes reimbursed her for her travels.
After the Sun-Times story, Sandi Jackson released a statement saying her family had been “privately addressing” the matter “for two years” and asking the public to “respect our family’s right to continue to handle this matter privately.”
Contributing: Lynn Sweet
Jackson divorce case documents: