UPDATE: Beavers Guilty of Tax Evasion
Jurors on Thursday afternoon withdrew to begin deliberations at a Cook County commissioner's tax-evasion trial in Chicago.
The 12 men and women who will determine William Beavers' fate received instructions from Judge James Zagel after closings and began discussions after a midday lunch break.
The 78-year-old Beavers pleaded not guilty to one count of obstructing the IRS and three of filing false tax returns from 2006 through 2008. Each carries a maximum three-year prison term.
In her closing, prosecutor Carrie Hamilton told jurors the Chicago Democrat dipped into his campaign coffers for gambling money and then failed to declare it as income.
Defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. alleged government attorneys had twisted the evidence. In a booming voice he told jurors the prosecutors, in his words, "are trying to bamboozle you."
The closings came after a contentious day in which Beavers' long-anticipated showdown with his accusers evaporated in a mist of contentious rulings from the bench.
For months, reporters, attorneys, and longtime political observers marked their calendars for the day when Beavers promised he would take the stand himself, and "tell the truth" about what he claimed was an effort by the feds to make him wear a wire on fellow commissioners. He said when he refused to be a "stool pigeon", they came after him on his taxes.
But Beavers' long-awaited testimony never came. After Zagel nullified the testimony of a key defense expert, saying he did not find him to be a reliable witness, Beavers' attorneys rested their case. Rather than climbing into the witness box to weave his tale of political and legal intrigue, the former alderman stood before the judge, and in a shop-vac voice seasoned by thousands of cigarettes over the decades, declared it was his decision alone not to testify.
Beavers is charged with failing to report thousands of dollars in income, taken from his campaign funds. He also is accused of converting $68,000 in campaign money to beef up his aldermanic pension, and failing to properly account for thousands of dollars in county expense funds.
The commissioner contended the campaign withdrawals were loans, and pointed to numerous instances where he had written checks back to the fund to replace the monies which had been removed.
Prosecutors alleged Beavers took the money to feed a seemingly bottomless gambling habit, presenting evidence from casino records indicating that he lost nearly half a million dollars at Hammond's Horseshoe casino over a three year period. Beavers says during those three years, if you factor in his winnings, he actually broke even.
The colorful former alderman, who once described himself as the "hog with the big nuts," declined comment on his decision not to take the stand, promising to make a statement at the conclusion of proceedings. When a reporter attemped to coax him to the microphones reminding him, "but you're the hog!", Beavers laughed.
"That's right," he said. "And don't you forget it!"