Updated: October 25, 2013 6:25AM
Six months after a federal jury found him guilty of tax evasion, a defiant William Beavers said Monday he’s not about to back down when he goes before U.S. District Judge James Zagel for sentencing this week.
“I’m still the same Beavers: The hog with the big nuts,” the 78-year-old veteran politician told me by telephone, accompanying the declaration with his characteristic deep-voiced chuckle.
I assumed he would be the same, but you never know. As the prospect of prison grows closer, even the toughest-talking guys can change their tune.
Beavers’ sentencing is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday. Federal prosecutors are recommending a 21-month prison sentence. His lawyers are seeking probation.
“I’m going to see what [the judge] says, and then I’m going to have my say,” Beavers said. “I’m not going to get on my knees. I’m not begging. Do what you have to do.”
Having his say does not necessarily mean Beavers will speak out in court before the judge sentences him.
“I’m not looking to get into a confrontation with him,” Beavers said of Zagel, whom he and his defense lawyers accused of being unfair during the trial.
Since the trial, Beavers said he has spent his time “relaxing, enjoying myself, shopping and cooking.”
Beavers, whose penchant for playing slot machines was a key piece of the evidence against him, said he hasn’t been to a riverboat casino in more than a year, but he wouldn’t say he had quit gambling.
“I’ve been busy doing some other stuff,” said Beavers, who continues to draw his pensions as a retired Chicago alderman and police officer. He said his four years as county commissioner was not long enough to qualify for a county pension.
Beavers said he continues to believe his conviction will be overturned on appeal because of mistakes Zagel made in his rulings, including allowing jury selection to go forward without any African-American men in the jury pool.
For that reason, he said, he’s not particularly worried about what sentence the judge hands down as long as he’s allowed to remain free pending his appeal.
“I know I can beat it on appeal,” Beavers said.
I told Beavers I expected his sentence will be in the range of one to two years, but he verbally shrugged it off.
“You got to do what the judge say. I prepare for whatever, you know. You do what you have to do.”
Even if they don’t want to grovel, criminal defendants in Beavers’ position usually find it in their best interest to swallow their pride at least a little at sentencing, as even the slightest showing of acceptance of responsibility can shave a few months off a sentence.
But that’s not in Beavers’ nature.
“I’m not going to change. I’m not going to change at all,” Beavers said. “Whether you know it or not, I’m regarded as a hero in my community.”
Beavers was referring to his assertion that he was prosecuted for refusing to cooperate with federal authorities in an investigation of Cook County Commissioner John Daley.
In recent court filings, Beavers’ lawyers contend that investigators also wanted Beavers’ to cooperate against former County Board President Todd Stroger. Neither Daley nor Stroger were ever charged, and Daley has denied being under investigation.
I don’t doubt for a minute that some members of Beavers’ community regard the veteran politician highly for defying federal prosecutors — and by “community” I’m pretty sure he meant the African-American community, although it could probably apply to the political community as well.
But I imagine he’d be in for a surprise if somebody took a poll because I don’t think most people — black or white — approve of politicians avoiding taxes or using their campaign funds as personal piggybanks, which were the allegations against Beavers.
Beavers maintained that he only “borrowed” the money he withdrew from his campaign funds and paid most of it back. A jury found otherwise.
In a court filing Monday, Beavers’ lawyers said he has refused to even allow them to solicit letters on his behalf to present to the judge at sentencing “because he does not want to impose a burden on these people.”
That’s pretty unusual for a politician, yet typical of Beavers, who has a way of cutting through the bull, even if he doesn’t always recognize his own.
I told Beavers I always wanted to know why he called himself “the hog with the big nuts.”
“The hog with the big nuts does all the [bleep]ing,” Beavers explained. “He doesn’t get [bleep]ed.”
There’s always a first time.