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Judges: Beavers’ claims of being targeted by feds won’t be in tax fraud case

Updated: November 29, 2012 6:17PM

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers’ claims that he’s being targeted by the feds for refusing to be a “stool pigeon” have nothing to do with his tax fraud case and won’t be heard by a jury, a judge ruled Thursday.

Judge James Zagel — due to preside over Beavers’ trial in federal court next week — said Beavers’ refusal to cooperate with the FBI against other politicians was “simply irrelevant” to whether or not he cheated on his taxes.

The ruling appears to shut down one key avenue of defense that Beavers has relied upon in his public statements since he was indicted — that he’s being “vindictively prosecuted” for refusing to wear a wire in an FBI probe of Commissioner John Daley.

Zagel said it’s still possible that Beavers can present evidence about his refusal to help the FBI but only if Beavers takes the stand. Even then, Beavers’ attorneys would have to ask Zagel for permission to bring the subject up in front of the jury, the judge said.

Beavers’ legal team say it will be a “game time decision” whether the sharp-suited former alderman does testify in his own defense.

In court papers filed late Wednesday, they had urged Zagel to toss the case against Beavers, saying the government only finally acknowledged this week that Beavers declined to cooperate during a 2009 interview in which investigators mentioned the names “Stroger” and “Daley.”

Zagel said he’d consider that argument, if necessary, after the trial.

He has yet to rule on whether Beavers can use evidence that he amended his income taxes and repaid what he called a “loan” he took from his campaign fund after he learned he was being probed for tax fraud.

Beavers argues the amendments and repayment show he never meant to cheat but prosecutors disagree. They want to bring evidence that Beavers used campaign funds for gambling, another issue Zagel hasn’t decided on.

Beavers was indicted in February on charges of taking $225,000 from his campaign funds and spending it on personal expenses, without declaring it in his income taxes. He’s also accused of moving $69,000 from his campaign to his city pension without paying taxes.

Commissioner Daley said at the time of Beavers’ indictment that he was not the subject of any investigation and that Beavers was simply trying to distract attention from his own problems by bringing Daley’s name up.

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