When his trial was delayed before Christmas, Cook County Commissioner William Beavers walked out of Chicago’s downtown federal courthouse with the immortal big-guy words, “I’m going to Gibsons to get me a steak.”
On Monday morning, his beef with the U.S. government is back on.
And this time, there’s little chance the expected weeklong tax fraud trial will be postponed.
“I still plan to take the stand,” the sharp-suited, baritone-voiced former alderman and self-described “hog with the big nuts” told the Chicago Sun-Times during a brief telephone interview last week. “It should be interesting.”
Between the government’s allegations that Beavers improperly used campaign cash to bankroll a losing run at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, and Beaver’s counter claims that the feds are only going after him because he refused to wire up against Cook County Commissioner John Daley, there’s certainly the potential for courtroom theater.
In preliminary hearings and court filings, prosecutors have presented the case against Beavers as a virtual slam dunk. Beavers simply failed to pay taxes on $225,000 he took from his campaign fund to spend on personal expenses, including his pension and a gambling spree, they say.
But Beavers’ large legal team — Sam Adam Jr., Aaron Goldstein, Lauren Kaeseberg, Sheldon Sorosky and Vic Henderson — says he amended his tax returns and paid the missing taxes back once he realized he had made an honest mistake.
Because of a ruling Judge James Zagel made late last year, however, they won’t get to make that argument to jurors unless Beavers testifies.
Beavers also will have to take the stand if he wants jurors to hear about a meeting he had with federal agents at which Daley’s last name came up during a conversation about cooperating, Zagel ruled last year.
Daley has dismissed Beavers’ comments, saying it’s a way for the fellow Chicago Democrat to turn the spotlight away from his alleged legal problems.
Beavers faces up to three years behind bars, fines and the automatic loss of his job if convicted.
If those potential punishments were already clear in December, the recent guilty plea and public disgrace of the woman who took Beavers’ seat on the Chicago City Council, Sandi Jackson, have only further dramatized the stakes for his long and proud career as a municipal power broker.
While Jackson and her husband Jesse Jr.’s campaign-finance fraud case is unrelated to Beavers’ indictment, the Jacksons’ convictions could yet prove an outside factor in Beavers’ trial “should some potential juror have it in the back of their mind,” Sorosky said.
But Henderson, whose ill health in December caused the trial’s delay, struck a confident note on the eve of the trial. “This is a retaliation case disguised as a tax case — if the commissioner had capitulated and agreed to wear a wire against John Daley, he wouldn’t have been charged,” he said.
Describing Beavers as “a stand-up guy,” Henderson added, “Thank God there are people out there that don’t capitulate to the government.”
Beavers, too, was unruffled.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said, with typical machismo.
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