Cook County Commissioner William Beavers defiantly declared Monday he will take the stand in his own defense.
The illness of lawyer Victor Henderson pushed back the trial by a day. It will resume Tuesday.
Beavers, 77, is accused of taking thousands of campaign dollars for personal use. At a pretrial hearing on Friday, Judge James Zagel said Beavers can tell jurors he repaid money he borrowed from his campaign and amended his returns after learning he was being investigated, but he can only broach that issue if he takes the witness stand.
The illness of his attorney did not stop the outspoken defendant from declaring his innocence.
"My taxes are paid," Beavers told reporters in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building, declaring prosecutors have developed convenient "amnesia" about his case. And to bolster his claim, he handed out copies of the letter prosecutors delivered last week, admitting that an offer of cooperation had been made, and that the names "Daley" and "Stroger" may have come up in the conversation.
Beavers has long contended that he was only being prosecuted because he refused to wear a wire on fellow commissioner John Daley. Daley has never been charged with a crime.
The commissioner’s lawyers indicated he was expected to testify in his own defense, but that they would let him make the final decision. For his part, Beavers said that decision had already been made.
"I will, no question about it," he said. "I’ll raise my hand, and swear before God to tell the truth."
Beavers maintains that his failure to pay all his taxes on time was a mere oversight. Prosecutors said they tracked Beavers racking up considerable losses at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond and repeatedly cashing campaign checks to cover them.
"It wasn’t just a couple of trips to the casino," assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Getter said. "He lost a lot of money. It happened frequently."
Beavers insists prosecutors will never be able to prove that he money at the casino, because he never did. His lawyers echoed that contention Monday.
"They don’t claim that he ever gambled with campaign money," said defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. "They’re going to make some inferences on it, but I’m telling you…there is not one penny that they connect from a campaign fund into any casino machine, onto any table at a casino."
Each count against Beavers carries a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.