Former Cook County Commissioner William Beavers asked Wednesday for a new trial, arguing in his appeal, that adverse rulings by Judge James Zagel “eviscerated” his chance to present a meaningful and complete defense. Beavers also argues that a jury panel devoid of African American men, violated his right to a trial heard by a fair cross-section of the community.
The flamboyant former Chicago alderman was accused of converting thousands of dollars in campaign funds to personal use, and lying about it on his 2006, 2007, and 2008 tax returns. Beavers maintained that he never intended to keep the money as income, and that all of the funds were loans that he intended to pay back. He was convicted on all counts.
“There was ample evidence proposed by Defendant which supported the defense that Beavers acted in good faith and did not intend to violate the law,” wrote attorney Lauren Kaeseberg. “Yet the court did not allow the jury to consider the evidence.”
Beavers’ attorneys argue that he was unfairly restricted from cross examining witnesses in areas which would have aided his defense. They note specifically that Zagel barred questions to an IRS agent, about errors in the former commissioner’s W2’s.
“The government proved up its case by using circumstantial evidence of alleged criminal intent,” the appeal states. “ However, circumstantial evidence sought by the defense of non-corrupt intent….was prohibited.”
Beavers’ attorneys also argued that the jury received improper instructions on what constitutes a loan. And that black men were systematically excluded from the jury, noting that the very same week of Beavers’ trial in a different courtroom, Judge Milton Shadur sent a jury panel back because of a lack of African-Americans.
“This Court could grant a new trial to preserve Beavers’ constitutional right to a fair cross section in his jury, without opening the flood gates,” the appeal states, reminding the Appellate Court that “Beavers raised these very issues with the trial court, and the error of the lower court, which abused its discretion, should be corrected.”