CHICAGO — An old-school Chicago Democrat's tax evasion trial — derailed for three months while his lead attorney recovered from bronchitis — is getting back on track with jury selection.
The trial for Cook County Commissioner Williams Beavers, 77, will resume Monday. He is accused of diverting more than $225,000 from campaign coffers to feed a gambling habit and for other personal uses without reporting it. He also is accused of failing to declare that he took more than $68,000 in campaign money and put it in a city fund to double the monthly pension he got for serving as an alderman for years.
Beavers pleaded not guilty to four tax counts. If convicted at his federal trial in Chicago, the former police officer-turned-politician faces a maximum three-year prison term on each count.
Beavers' famed bravado could be on display for jurors should he testify at the trial, which should last about two weeks. It's a risky move and could open him to a blistering cross-examination.
But faced with either keeping his mouth shut or saying what's on his mind, the baritone-voiced Beavers typically has opted for the latter.
Beavers told Chicago's WFLD-TV in an interview Saturday that he intends to speak directly to jurors.
"I'm gonna get up there and tell the truth ... and they are going to see that I'm telling the truth, and that they (prosecutors) are lying," said a defiant Beavers.
When federal authorities scrutinized his taxes, he likened the then-chief prosecutor to a Nazi and has bragged about telling investigators to kiss his posterior.
Beavers' most famous rhetorical flourish came several years ago when he offered a favorable estimation of his own influence, calling himself "a hog with big nuts."
The trial is being held in the same courtroom as that of disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, with the same judge, many of the same defense attorneys and some of the prosecutors. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence on multiple corruption convictions, including charges that he tried to sell President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.
One of Beavers' attorneys is Sam Adam Jr., Blagojevich's lead lawyer at his first corruption trial that ended with jurors deadlocked on all but one charge, leading to a second decisive trial.
Beavers has said his indictment was an act of retribution by investigators for refusing to wear a wire against another county commissioner, John Daley, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. U.S. District Judge James Zagel barred defense attorneys from broaching that allegation at the trial.
Zagel ruled last year that they could argue Beavers eventually paid back the money in question and amended his returns after he learned he was under investigation. However, Zagel said that claim would only be admissible if it came from Beavers' mouth on the witness stand.