An influential Chicago politician can tell jurors he put cash back into his campaign coffers and amended his tax returns as part of his defense at his upcoming tax-evasion trial, but only if he takes the stand and speaks to jurors directly, a judge ruled Friday. Phil Rogers reports.
A federal judge in Chicago says a Cook County commissioner can tell jurors at his tax-evasion trial that he repaid money he borrowed from his campaign and amended his returns after he learned he was being investigated.
But at a pretrial hearing Friday, Judge James Zagel said William Beavers can only broach that issue if he takes the witness stand. And prosecutors made clear, they intend to dive deep into Beavers’ personal life, painting him an as an avid gambler who used campaign cash to cover his losses.
Jury selection starts Monday.
Beavers, the self-proclaimed “hog with the big nuts”, has never been shy in saying that prosecutors wanted him to wear a wire as part of a bigger investigation, against fellow commissioner John Daley. This week, his attorneys said prosecutors also wanted him to inform on then-board president Todd Stroger.
"I don't know what they wanted John Daley for. I wouldn't even go into it. When they said 'John Daley,' I cut them off," Beavers said. "If you're telling the truth, the prosecutor can prosecute you all he wants to. ... I don't owe no taxes."
Beavers maintains that his failure to pay all his taxes on time was a mere oversight. Prosecutors had wanted the judge to bar testimony about the repayments and amended returns as irrelevant to the crime.
In court, prosecutors said they would call an official from the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond to testify about Beavers’ gambling losses. On a single day, they say they tracked how he racked up considerable losses, and repeatedly cashed campaign checks to cover them.
"It wasn’t just a couple of trips to the casino," said assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Getter. "He lost a lot of money. It happened frequently."
Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky argued unsuccessfully that the information was prejudicial and irrelevant.
"He made some mistakes," Sorosky said. "How he spent the money doesn’t really make much difference."
Defense lawyers have not indicated whether Beavers will testify.
The 77-year-old Democrat is accused of diverting thousands of dollars for personal use without reporting it.
Each count against Beavers carries a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.