Politicians. They are just like everyone else except they tend to live their lives in the public eye. They are supposed to be model citizens, but they often get caught up in crimes and wrongdoings. And when they do, the public can’t get enough of their stories.
There are plenty of politicians convicted of crimes throughout our history. Some of them have minor charges, but many convicted politicians have significant crimes to their name. Sometimes they can get away with their crimes, but politicians caught misbehaving, or arrested politicians often must serve their time just like the rest of us.
Here is our list of some of the most notorious convicted politicians.
Anthony Weiner is probably on everyone’s radar for his sexually explicit crimes. Weiner was a former congressman from New York who served from 1999 to 2011. He won seven terms and always had a high voting percentage in his district. That legacy all began to crumble when it came out that he was involved in a sexting scandal.
In May of 2011, Anthony Weiner sent a sexually explicit photo to a college student through his public Twitter account. Even though the link was quickly removed, it was still up long enough to be made public, and word got out. In June of 2011, Weiner announced that he would be resigning from Congress. This wasn’t the first time that he had sent texts with sexual content or “sexts” and it wouldn’t be the last.
In 2013, Anthony decided to return to the public eye and run for mayor. Unfortunately, it came out that he had continued sexting women even after he resigned from Congress. And in 2016 it came out that he had sexted a 15-year old. He pled guilty to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor and started serving a 21-month sentence in November of 2017. His wife, Huma Abedin, filed for divorce right before his conviction.
Rod Blagojevich was another high-profile politician caught in a scandal during his time as governor of Illinois. Barack Obama was initially a senator from Illinois but in 2006 decided to run for President. That left his seat vacant, and it was the job of the governor, Rod Blagojevich to appoint someone to his position. Everything should have been fine, except that Blagojevich tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat.
Wiretaps placed on Blagojevich’s phone showed that he wanted to get something in exchange for the vacant seat. He was arrested in his home and charged with corruption. During this time, Blagojevich still claimed his innocence. Eventually, Rod was impeached and brought to court on his charges. He was found guilty of 17 of the 20 charges against him and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. He started his sentence in 2012 and is expected to serve at least 12 of the 14 years.
Jesse Jackson Jr.
Jesse Jackson Jr. is no stranger to being in front of the public. He is the son of activist and former presidential candidate, Jesse Jackson. He also served for Illinois’s 2nd congressional district in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, he also had problems with the law and is a convicted politician.
In 2012, Jackson came under investigation for financial reasons, one of them including misusing campaign funds. Shortly after this investigation started, Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from Congress, citing health problems. Eventually, he admitted to using campaign funds to make personal purchases and sentenced to 30 months in prison. His wife was also caught up in this mess, and she received a sentence of one year. She and Jesse Jackson Jr. are currently in the middle of a divorce.
After he served his time, Jackson received home detention and during that time, admitted to possible other crimes. He offered to help the feds catch the others possibly involved in this crime in exchange for a softer sentence.
John N. Mitchell
The Watergate scandal under President Richard Nixon brought a lot of politicians down. While President Nixon didn’t go to jail himself, many top government officials were found guilty of crimes including John N. Mitchell.
John N. Mitchell served as the Attorney General under President Nixon. Before that title, he was a lawyer and director of Nixon’s presidential campaign. He and Richard Nixon were also close friends. Unfortunately, he also played a large part in the Watergate scandal. Mitchell participated in meetings to plan the break-in of the Democratic Party’s headquarters and met numerous times with President Nixon to cover up what they had done.
In 1975, John. N Mitchel was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. He got a sentence of two and a half to eight years, but that sentence was later reduced to one year from four. He was disbarred from practicing law in New York and served 19 months of his sentence before being released on parole due to medical reasons.
Another Illinois governor made our list of notorious convicted politicians. George Ryan served as governor from 1999 to 2003, right before Rod Blagojevich began his term. Before that, he served as the Illinois Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, and Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. While he has had a lengthy career as a politician, his actions as governor are what garner him the most attention.
Before the conviction of any crimes, Ryan decided to put a moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois. He didn’t want to sentence anyone to death that hadn’t actually committed a crime. During this time, he came under investigation for fraud and racketeering. Essentially during his reign as governor, Illinois was for sale. He made sure that lucrative government contracts and leases to his friends and in exchange got family vacations, gifts, and cash.
In April of 2006, he was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, fraud, and other offenses and sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison. Ryan tried to gain clemency under President George W. Bush, but he didn’t get it. He also tried to commute his sentence so that he could be with his terminally ill wife in her last few months. That request was denied, but he was able to be with her in her final hours. In 2013, he was released from prison to home confinement and a few months later released from home confinement.
Kwame Kilpatrick started his political career as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives in 1997. He stayed at that post until 2002 when he ran for Mayor of Detroit. He won that race and served as mayor from 2002 until 2008. He resigned in the middle of his second term due to his crimes.
During his run as Mayor of Detroit, Kilpatrick had a lot of scandals around him. Just a few include a massive mansion party that included strippers and physical altercations between Kilpatrick’s wife and a stripper. The stripper in question in that incident was later found dead before she could give testimony in the mansion case. There was also a whistleblower trial in 2003 where two police officers claimed they were fired for investigating the mayor’s misconduct.
Kilpatrick was convicted of perjury in 2008 and sentenced to four months in jail. He served 99 days of that sentence and was released on probation. Apparently, Kilpatrick decided he liked prison because he violated his probation and was sent back to jail for up to five years. In 2013, Kilpatrick got a conviction of 24 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering. This time, he received a prison sentence of 28 years.
There were many more scandals and investigations of misconduct during Kwame Kilpatrick’s terms as mayor. There were texting scandals, slander, recalls, abuse of power, preferential treatment for friends and family.
While many people might like a story about politicians acting up, they also love a comeback story. With Marion Barry, you can get both. Marion Barry was a prominent politician in the mid-nineties and served in many different roles. He got his start in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and served as the first Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
From that position, he went on to serve as a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, Mayor of the District of Columbia, and finally back in the Council of the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, he hit a bit of a rough patch around January of 1990. During that time, he was videotaped smoking crack cocaine, and the FBI arrested him on drug charges. This whole scandal happened during his re-election to the Council of the District of Columbia.
He got a six-month prison sentence in federal jail, and even though he had a lot of controversy around him, he was able to win his seat back on the council and serve after his release. He went on to become Mayor of the District of Columbia a second time in 1994 and served there until 1999. Despite all the scandal around him, the public still loved him and appreciated what he had done for civil rights as well as the District of Columbia.