Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, holds a press conference at The Dirksen Federal Building after his arraignment on federal tax evasion charges. March 2, 2012. | Scott Stewart~Chicago Sun-Times.
Updated: April 23, 2013 2:18PM
The seeds of Cook County Commissioner William Beavers’ conviction were planted the day he decided to play fast and loose with his campaign cash.
How dumb was that?
A likable politician, Beavers has talked his way out of a lot of untenable positions. But this time he couldn’t bluster free. A jury saw right through him.
Beavers had treated his campaign fund as his personal checking account. And there are rules about that sort of thing, even in Illinois.
On Thursday, Beavers, a former alderman, was convicted on all counts of impeding the IRS and filing false income tax returns from 2006 through 2008. The jury found he failed to pay taxes on at least $30,000 he took from his campaign stash to play slot machines at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. He didn’t report another $68,000 in campaign money he used to boost his city pension or his $1,200 a month stipend for being a county commissioner.
Had Beavers testified, U.S. District Judge James Zagel would have allowed the defense to argue that Beavers amended his tax returns to reflect that extra income and that the FBI had targeted him because he refused to work undercover for them.
But Beavers did not take the stand, though he had promised he would. And this should have surprised no one. No crooked pol with a good lawyer — we’ve seen enough to know — ever takes the stand.
Seriously, people, we could write a manual by now: “Tips for Pols on Trial in Illinois.”
Don’t take the stand.
Don’t confuse a jury for a radio audience.
Bring a toothbrush to prison. They don’t give you one for free.
Truth is, this is a sad story without any obvious public policy lessons. It’s just the tale of an aging Chicago pol full of bravado who had a bad gambling jones and a sense of being above the rules.
Beavers’ lawyer warned the jury that the prosecutors were trying to bamboozle them. Beavers himself griped that Judge Zagel was unfair in his rulings, which he should not have done — Zagel is the same guy who will sentence him.
You’ll find all this, too, in the “Tips for Pols on Trial in Illinois” handbook.
But the money trail was clear.
Beavers, the self-proclaimed “hog with the big nuts,” got caught hogging.