Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. declined to say Tuesday if he became an informant in a 2015 federal investigation involving possible crimes “by him and others” — while also questioning the timing of the disclosure of a Justice Department letter outlining the matter in light of his pending divorce.
In a statement on behalf of the former congressman, Jackson’s Chicago divorce attorney Brendan Hammer sidestepped the issue of whether Jackson had become an informant in an undisclosed criminal case being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, New York.
“While extra-judicial tactics may be the chosen approach of some, Mr. Jackson chooses not to take the bait, much as he may want to do so,” the statement said. “As such, any inquiry relative to the substance of yesterday’s story, such as it is, should be directed to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”
The letter, first disclosed by the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday evening, indicates that as Jackson was wrapping up his federal sentence for looting his campaign fund, he also was negotiating to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York in another criminal investigation.
“Mr. Jackson has informed the government of potential violations of law by him and others,” reads the Aug. 16, 2015, letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel C. Richenthal in Manhattan to Jackson criminal attorney John Colette.
The name of the target or targets of the investigation weren’t included in the letter. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment Tuesday.
Jackson and his now-estranged wife Sandi Jackson, in the midst of a messy divorce, both were sentenced to prison in 2013 for their roles in stealing $750,000 in campaign cash.
The surfacing of the 2015 Justice Department letter at this time might be connected to the divorce, Hammer suggested in his statement on behalf of Jesse Jackson.
The statement said the “protection, support and stability” of the Jackson children are Jesse Jackson’s foremost concern.
“Whether that concern is shared by Ms. Jackson remains an open question after yesterday’s reporting — curiously coming as it does only days before this case enters a new phase with an evidentiary hearing in Washington and a court appearance in Chicago,” the statement said.
New “facts, sworn testimony, records, documents and other materials” will be introduced in open court, Hammer also said.
Neither Sandi Jackson nor an attorney representing her could immediately be reached for comment.
The Jacksons are arguing over whether their divorce should be handled in Washington, D.C., where Sandi Jackson lives with their two children, or in Chicago, where Jesse Jackson now resides. They’ve filed for divorce in those respective jurisdictions, with hearings in both cases set for April 28.
Colette on Monday acknowledged to the Sun-Times that Jesse Jackson had communicated with federal authorities in 2015. “I remember part of that agreement, but I don’t have the document in front of me right now,” he said then.
Reached again Tuesday, Colette said, “I’m not going to really talk about the situation. . . . This is something that is coming up apparently in a hotly contested divorce case. And I have no comment on it.”
Asked if Jackson ever became an informant, Colette said, “I can’t comment on it.”
The letter outlines that Jackson had agreed to secretly record conversations as part of the New York investigation.
Jackson “has indicated that he desires to undertake certain actions, including participating in monitored and/or recorded telephone and/or email conversations and meetings, with the intention of providing the government with additional information regarding these potential violations of law,” the letter reads.
It isn’t known what the other investigation entailed, what possible crimes Jackson might have told prosecutors about or whether the cooperation deal was formally entered into.