Cook County Commissioner William Beavers listens to a reporter's question at the federal building in Chicago, Thursday, March 21, 2013, after he was convicted of tax evasion for not declaring campaign cash he gambled away on slot machines as income. Beavers, whose commissioner's salary is $85,000, lost $500,000 over three years at Indiana's Horseshoe Casino, sometimes writing himself one $2,000 campaign check after another on daylong gambling binges. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Poor William Beavers. It must be difficult to be so misunderstood.
You have to imagine that there was a point, somewhere along the way, when William M. Beavers entered politics to do some good. Back in 1983, perhaps, when he first entered the City Council as a freshman alderman from the 7th Ward on the city’s south side. Or maybe when he took his position as Cook County Commissioner.
Maybe it was even further back than that, after he had served as a Chicago police officer for more than 20 years, when he was shaking hands and running for office and preparing to be a loyal Democrat, a solid progressive and a good civil servant.
But somewhere on the path, William Beavers lost his way. You could see it in his eyes and his demeanor each day outside the downtown courtroom where he was on trial for tax evasion, which resulted in a guilty verdict in March after just 45 minutes of deliberation. You could see it today, when he was sentenced to six months in prison and $10,000 in fines for withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign fund over a three-year period.
You could hear it in his words as he spoke after the sentencing, calling himself a “hero” for standing up to an oppressive government that wanted him to follow campaign finance laws while crowing that wouldn’t back down from anyone using “Gestapo tactics” to enforce the law.
To hear Beavers tell it, his situation is simply a case of a courageous man who refuses to buckle in the face of out of control government prosecutors who want to unfairly bring down, well, a 78-year-old career politician with a fondness for gambling and who admitted to taking money from his campaign accounts as a “loan.” Who implicitly claimed racism when no black men ended up on his jury. Who said he was really being persecuted for refusing to wear a wire against the Daley clan. Who failed to take the stand when given the chance, despite vowing for months that he would speak directly to jurors to clear his name.
Who had the class to suggest that since he wouldn’t “beg my woman,” he didn't have to beg the judge for any favors, either.
Clearly, being so misunderstood must be a burden. But maybe the misunderstanding wasn’t between Beavers and the government prosecutors. Maybe it was between the voters who once believed Beavers was one kind of a man, only to find out he was something else entirely.