William Beavers on trial for federal tax evasion - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

William Beavers determined to testify in federal tax evasion trial

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers' federal trial for tax evasion on $226,000 began Monday morning.

"I'll get on the stand, and I'll tell the truth," Beavers said Monday, after court. "It'll be up to the jury. It won't be up to me or to anybody else. It's going to be up to the jury."

Beavers, 78, has been in government a long time. The former alderman, former Chicago cop and current county commissioner was his usual tough self in an exclusive interview with FOX 32's legal analyst Larry Yellen.

EXCLUSIVE: William Beavers is ready for the witness stand

EXCLUSIVE: Beavers believes he will be found not guilty of tax evasion

The prosecution and defense lawyers finished going over some pretrial issues at around 11:45 a.m. Monday.

"I've been saying the same thing from day one," Beavers said. "Some of you were listening and some of you are not. Some of you believe it and some of you don't believe it."

Judge James Zagel decided that once the jurors are selected, they will remain anonymous throughout the end of the trial. They won't be identified until the trial is over because Zagel expects this trial to receive publicity, and he doesn't want any reporters reaching out to any of those jurors.

Beavers is charged with failing to pay income taxes on $226,000 that he allegedly took from his campaign funds and used for personal purposes. Prosecutors said he spent much of that money gambling at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. The government also alleges he put $69,000 in his retirement fund.

"I paid the money back long before they even came," Beavers said. "The money was paid before they even created a grand jury. I can show you, ok? I'll be able to show the jury. All this money was paid. And it was a loan."

The commissioner has pleaded not guilty on four tax counts. Each carries a maximum sentence of three years.

The commissioner is expected to argue that he was borrowing from his campaign funds and later paid the money back. He is expected to say that he did so while also filing amended tax returns, after he learned he had made what he calls an "innocent mistake." He's ready to tell that to the jury.

"The irrepressible William Beavers is 100% ready to testify, wants to testify and should it be necessary," Atty. Sam Adam Jr. said. "He will if he wants to testify, I back him 100% on his decision, but it's too early to make that call."

Beaver's counter claim to the prosecution's accusations is that the feds are only going after him because he refused to wire up against Cook County Commissioner John Daley.

"I've shown you paperwork, where they lie," Beavers said. "They finally admitted that they did come and ask me to testify against John Daley. They asked me to be a stool pigeon, and I'm not a stool pigeon. That's what it's all about."

Daley has dismissed Beavers' comments, saying it's a way for the fellow Chicago Democrat to turn the spotlight away from his alleged legal problems.

Beavers and his you-can't-touch-me persona are artifacts of old-school Chicago politics.

The commissioner told FOX 32 that the feds underestimated him - that he's no punk, he's "a man, M-A-N." He also said he expects to be found not guilty.

"I'm very confident," Beavers said. "You know, when you don't have to lie, you can tell the same story over and over again – you all see it – the same story over and over again. You know, you don't have to worry about anything – only when you have to change your story, back and forth, back and forth."

Judge Zagel ruled that if Beavers wants the jury to hear about the "honest mistake" or about John Daley, he would have to testify in court. Beavers has elected to do so.

In the past, Beavers has likened a prosecutor to a Nazi and bragged about telling investigators to kiss his posterior. In his most famous rhetorical flourish, he once compared himself to a virile hog. Jurors may get to see Beavers' bravado in person, when he takes the stand.

Beavers has a large legal team: Sam Adam Jr., Aaron Goldstein, Lauren Kaeseberg, Sheldon Sorosky and Vic Henderson are all representing him.

Beavers faces time behind bars, fines and the automatic loss of his job if convicted.

The recent guilty plea and public disgrace of the woman who took Beavers' seat on the Chicago City Council, Sandi Jackson, have only further dramatized the stakes for his long and proud career as a municipal power broker.

While Jackson and her husband Jesse Jr.'s campaign-finance fraud case is unrelated to Beavers' indictment, the Jacksons' convictions could yet prove an outside factor in Beavers' trial "should some potential juror have it in the back of their mind," Sorosky said.

But Henderson, whose ill health in December caused the trial's delay, struck a confident note on the eve of the trial.

"This is a retaliation case disguised as a tax case — if the commissioner had capitulated and agreed to wear a wire against John Daley, he wouldn't have been charged," he said.

Describing Beavers as "a stand-up guy," Henderson added, "Thank God there are people out there that don't capitulate to the government."

Beavers, too, was unruffled.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said, with typical machismo.

The jury selection will begin Tuesday morning, the jurors will get some questionnaires and they will be questioned in open court Tuesday afternoon. Opening statements could possibly begin late Tuesday afternoon, but are more likely to start Wednesday morning.

The Sun-Times Media Wire and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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