Now he’s the Hog with Big Trouble. William Beavers was found guilty Thursday of being a tax cheat.
A federal jury convicted the Cook County Commissioner on all counts after deliberating for just a few hours, the Sun-Times is reporting.
Under state law, the veteran South Side politician who famously dubbed himself “The Hog with the big nuts” automatically loses his seat on the Cook County Board.
Earlier Thursday, prosecutors blasted the former alderman as a tax cheat who “decided the rules shouldn’t apply to him.”
But Beavers’ defense team painted him as an elderly man who “may” have a gambling problem and never intended to defraud the IRS.
Jurors began their deliberations Thursday afternoon after hearing closing arguments in a packed courtroom, during which defense attorney Sam Adam Jr.’s theatrical style again clashed with prosecutors’ dry demeanor — and irritated Judge James Zagel, who issued a series of rulings in an attempt to reign Adam in.
Accused of cheating on his taxes in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Beavers “has been an elected public official for the last 30 years — he understands and he knows the importance of paying taxes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told the jury.
Instead of paying taxes on checks he cut himself from his political campaign funds and spent on losing gambling runs at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Beavers deliberately “kept everyone in the dark” by falsifying his tax returns and campaign records, Hamilton said.
Beavers also failed to declare a $68,000 boost he gave his pension from his campaign funds, and to pay taxes on $28,000 in county expense checks he took as personal income, the prosecutor added.
“He took the income and used it when it benefitted him, but when it came time to admit it on his tax returns, he didn’t,” she said, urging a guilty verdict.
Defending Beavers, Adam focussed on Beavers’ claim that the withdrawals he took from his campaign fund were non-taxable loans that he intended to pay back.
The case was “simple,” he said. If Beavers intended to repay the withdrawals when he took them, “they were loans, plain and simple,” Adam said, pointing to evidence that 86 percent of the money Beavers took was either paid back or used for legitimate campaign expenses.
He mocked the IRS agent who investigated Beavers, Paul Ponzo, as an incompetent who failed his exam to become a licensed accountant.
Holding a series of documents showing jackpots that Beavers won at the casino that he claimed Ponzo had failed to account for, Adam shouted that the whole case against the commissioner was “a Ponzo scheme — that’s what it is!”
Having Ponzo account for Beavers’ spending was “like Lindsay Lohan telling Betty Ford how to get off drugs ... like Lovie Smith telling Phil Jackson how to win a championship,” he said in a trademark rhetorical flourish.
Adam was rebuked by the judge several times during his hour-long closing argument for making irrelevant arguments and for crossing the line into personal attacks on the prosecutors in the case.
After one rebuke, Adam even adopted a exaggerated “robot” voice as he demonstrated his adherence to the judge’s orders.
He told jurors the government was trying to “bamboozle” them.
“Commissioner Beavers may have had a gambling problem,” he said, referring to the nearly $500,000 Beavers lost at the Horseshoe over a three-year period. “Commissioner Beavers may have got in over his head, but it had nothing to do with the IRS — it had to do with a problem.”
Pointing to Beavers, he concluded, “Send that 78-year-old man home.”
Before the jury was instructed in the law and began its deliberations, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Getter then made one final push for a guilty plea.
Beavers he said, used the campaign funds as “a personal ATM” and never intended to repay all the cash he withdrew. “He put back what he needed to put back to cover his tracks,” Getter said. “He didn’t want anyone to know.”
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