He said he hoped that his wife could earn enough money in his absence to keep the family together. "When I get back, I'll take on that burden," he said. "By then I hope my children will be old enough that the pain I caused will be easier to bear."
Sandi Jackson addressed the court after her husband. "I am a little nervous," she told the judge, "so I have a written statement that I would like to read to you."
She continued: "I want to begin by apologizing first to my family, to my friends, my community and my constituents for the actions that brought me here today."
She said she had caused "disappointment in my community" and had "put my family unit in peril."
"My heart breaks every day with the pain this has caused my babies," she continued, weeping. "I ask to be parent, provider and support system that my babies will require in the difficult months ahead."
Their children — a girl, 13, and a boy, 9 — were not in court.
When the former alderman lost her bid for freedom, defense attorney Dan Webb said she wished to serve her term in a correctional institution in Marianna, Fla. The minimum-security facility is a prison camp about 65 miles northwest of Tallahassee.
As for Jackson Jr., the judge said she would recommend he be placed in a federal prison camp in Alabama — he had stated that his first choice was one in Montgomery — or a prison in Butner, N.C. But the Bureau of Prisons will make the final call.
Earlier in the hearing, Jackson Jr.'s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, said his client felt "horror, shame and distress" over his wrongs.
But Weingarten also tried to downplay Jackson Jr.'s actions since he took money from his own campaign fund. It's not as if there are widows and orphans outside the courthouse who are victims and asking for his head, Weingarten said.
"This is not Madoff. This is not a Ponzi scheme," the lawyer said. Bernard Madoff, now imprisoned in the Butner facility, is a financier whose Ponzi scheme led investors to lose their fortunes.
Weingarten said Jackson Jr. "suffers from a very, very serious mental health disease." He identified the former congressman's illness as bipolar disorder and said it was relevant even though "we didn't plead guilty by reason of insanity."
Matt Graves, an assistant U.S. attorney, countered that Jackson Jr.'s crimes represented one of the largest cases of theft from a campaign treasury ever prosecuted.
Graves took a shot at Jackson Jr.'s reported bipolar disorder, saying when mental health issues are litigated in court, usually there is expert testimony, discovery and an examination of the defendant — and that none had occurred in the case.
"When one looks at the facts," Graves said, "it's quite clear that there's no there there."
He decried Jackson Jr.'s "wasted talent" and "what he threw away."
Graves said Sandi Jackson's crimes were serious and had occurred over many years. He noted that defendants with children were given prison terms in courts across the country.
The judge also ordered the Jacksons to serve supervised release after their prison terms: three years for him, one for her. She said he also must perform 500 hours of community service and she must perform 200 hours. But the service may not be political work nor done at a charity run by a relative, the judge said.
Jackson Jr., 48, pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy count. Sandi Jackson, 49, his co-conspirator, pleaded guilty to a separate count of failing to report about $600,000 in income on tax returns.
The hearing Wednesday took 41/2 hours. When the Jacksons arrived at the courthouse Wednesday morning and emerged from a white Toyota Sequoia SUV, they held hands. With them was Judy Smith, a crisis communications expert and former federal prosecutor whose work inspired the TV show "Scandal."