Ex-congressman Jackson speaks publicly for first time since prison release: 'I feel fantastic'

FOX 32 NEWS - From political superstar to federal prison.

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Junior has a lot to talk about and he spoke for the first time Monday since his release from prison nearly two years ago.

Jackson talked about his impending divorce from wife Sandi Jackson and defended his big disability paycheck.

"I feel fantastic, you know.... There are up and down days,” Jackson said.

He’s a bit thinner, a bit greyer, but as charismatic and combative as ever.

"Again. Attacked from all angles,” Jackson said.

Jackson spoke publicly for the first time since destroying his political career, serving time in prison and filing for divorce against his wife Sandi.

"My issues were personal. I made some mistakes over a ten year period. They were expensive. I paid it all back! I'm near bankruptcy right now. I owe the government nothing,” Jackson said.

Jackson spoke after an appearance in divorce court at the Daley Center. He wants the trial in Chicago, while Sandi Jackson has filed for divorce in Washington D.C.

The former congressman is also asking for the right to depose several men, including former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. He wouldn't say why, but hinted it involves issues he wants to keep from the couple's teenage children.

"I don't want my children to ever walk through a grocery store line and see what I found and what we know exists. And I'm not gonna lay it on the ground in that chamber,” Jackson said.

Jackson also says he absolutely deserves the $138k a year in federal workers comp and social security disability he's been receiving since he left congress for a bipolar disorder. The controversial payments were revealed in a recent court filing.

"Look at the two cases. My wife in that case is asking for everything. 'Jesse give me your whole disability check.' In Chicago media, 'you don't even deserve a disability check!'” Jackson said.

Jackson also talked about his time in federal prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign fund.

"I can say the best thing that ever happened to me was this experience,” Jackson said. “Rather than feeling bad for myself, I heard their story. One guy walked up to me and said 'Jackson, get out of bed! I don't know what you're complaining about. My daddy set me on fire.'" Jackson said.

The judge on Monday did not rule on the request for those depositions, or whether the venue for the trial should be in Chicago or Washington DC. Those matters will be held over to the next court appearance on April 3rd.

Jackson says his next project involves working on behalf of the millions of Americans who have been incarcerated.