Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, the self-proclaimed "hog with big nuts," faces 12 years in prison after being found guilty Thursday afternoon of tax evasion.
The 12 men and women of the jury reached their verdict quickly, deliberating for just 45 minutes following a morning of closing arguments and jury instructions.
"This was a case of a man against the United States government,” a defiant Beavers declared after the swift jury verdict. Speaking of the federal prosecutor who indicted him, who he once called a "rooster without nuts," the commissioner said, "We got rid of Fitzgerald. Now we’ve got to get rid of his posse!"
At issue, Beavers’ withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign fund over a three year period. He contended the money amounted to nothing more than loans. The government said it was unreported income, which he deliberately hid from the IRS.
"There was absolutely no evidence that he intended it to be a loan," said prosecutor Carrie Hamilton. "He didn’t write on the checks that he wrote that it was a loan. He didn’t tell his treasurers it was a loan. He didn’t tell the state board of elections that it was a loan."
During the trial, Beavers' defense team pointed to checks he had written back to the campaign from his personal account as evidence that the "loaned" campaign funds were being paid back.
"For all we know he put the money back in because the treasurers were asking questions about where the money was," Hamilton said. And her boss, acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro said that when all was said and done, the case boiled down to a rather simple message.
"The message that was sent here was that Bill Beavers took a lot of money that people gave him for his campaign and stuck it in his pocket," Shapiro said. "And a lot of it, he gambled."
Beavers continued to profess his innocence as he exited the federal courthouse, claiming the government's case against him was nothing more than retaliation for his refusal to wear a wire against his colleagues, Commissioner John Daley in particular, in a wider probe of Cook County government.
"Ray Charles could see that," Beavers quipped. "They thought I was a punk."
Asked if he had any information on Daley the government might wish to know, Beavers snapped back.
"I don't know nothing about nobody, OK?"
Shapiro categorically denied Beavers’ allegation that the prosecution was vindictive.
"We don’t turn around and prosecute the ones who say, 'No,'" Shapiro said. "Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. We don’t then turn around and indict them because they refuse to cooperate."
Beavers and his attorney, Sam Adam Jr., vowed to appeal.
"[The jurors] didn't buy my argument," Adam said in the courthouse lobby after the verdict was read. "I wish I could have done better. I wish I did do better, and I'm hoping we get a second chance at this when the appeal comes back."
Beavers was indicted in February 2012 of failing to report thousands of dollars in income, taken from his campaign funds. He also was 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.
During the trial, the government said Beavers was a prolific gambler and used campaign money to feed his habit. Beavers and his attorneys said prosecutors twisted the evidence.
"This case was a case of not cooperating with the FBI. That's all it was about. They tried to make it into a gambling case, other than a tax case. It was all about taxes," said Beavers.
It was immediately unclear how long Beavers would continue as a county commissioner. Adam said he believed Beavers could remain in office through sentencing. Beavers said he would resign if necessary, but both men expressed confidence an appeal would work out in their favor.
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