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Judge imposes gag order in William Beavers trial

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers speaks reporters last year as his attorney Sam Adam Jr. listens. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers speaks to reporters last year, as his attorney Sam Adam Jr. listens. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

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Updated: April 15, 2013 11:18AM

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers’ legal team has been gagged from publicly discussing his tax fraud case by a federal judge — a day after defense lawyers went on camera to claim jury-pool selection was “rigged” to exclude black men.

Judge James Zagel didn’t refer directly to comments made outside court Tuesday night by Beavers’ attorney, Sam Adam Sr.

But it was clear that the judge was peeved by the incendiary words Adam used in comparing the jury selection process in Chicago to racist laws in Jim Crow-era Mississippi.

Comments made to the media outside court often “distracted” lawyers from “the purpose of the trial,” Zagel said, ordering attorneys for both sides not to discuss the case in public until the trial is over.

Zagel referred to the lawyers when issuing the order and did not mention whether it applied to Beavers himself.

The judge’s order Wednesday morning was followed by hours of hearings and argument over the composition of the jury.

Of the dozen citizens finally selected to serve, just one, a young woman, is black. One Hispanic woman, five white women and five white men were also picked, and two black women are among the four alternate jurors ready to step in, in case of a problem.

Beavers’ attorneys — known for their media-friendly rhetorical flourishes — had reacted with outrage on Tuesday when they learned that not one of the 50 randomly-selected citizens in the pool from which the jury was picked was a fellow black man.

But Zagel told them he was powerless to bring in a new pool.

During Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors revealed fresh details about their case against Beavers, who’s accused of failing to declare income he took from his political campaign funds for personal use between 2006 and 2008.

Beavers was hit with a $27,000 tax bill in 2005, after he did declare transfers he made from his campaign that year, prosecutors say. He hid the transfers in the following years, they allege, because he was desperate to avoid a repeat.

Opening arguments — twice pushed back already — are now scheduled for Thursday morning.

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