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Beavers’ gambling losses allowed at trial, judge rules

Commissioner William Beavers

Commissioner William Beavers

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Updated: January 2, 2013 6:10AM

He was on a losing streak at the casino — using campaign cash he didn’t pay taxes on.

But as soon as Cook County Commissioner William Beavers ran out of dough at Hammond’s Horseshoe Casino, he ducked outside, cashed another campaign fund check and came back to place more losing bets, prosecutors say.

Beavers — due to stand trial next week on tax fraud charges — didn’t just do that once, he “lost a lot” of campaign cash in repeated trips to the casino, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Getter alleged in Federal Court Friday.

And in one of several last minute blows to Beavers’ defense, Judge James Zagel said he’d allow evidence of the gambling to be heard by a jury.

Beavers’ attorney Sheldon Sorosky had urged Zagel to bar testimony from Horseshoe employees who are expected to detail the dollar amounts of Beavers’ gambling losses, as well as records that show how long he spent at the casino.

Prosecutors say that by comparing the times Beavers swiped in and out of the casino with the times he cashed the campaign checks and a spreadsheet of his gambling losses, jurors will be able to see that Beavers used campaign funds for his own personal use without paying the appropriate taxes.

“It wasn’t just a couple of trips to the casino,” Getter said. “He lost a lot of money. It happened frequently.”

Sorosky argued that the government was simply trying to prejudice jurors against Beavers by painting him as a degenerate gambler but Zagel said he would allow the testimony, cautioning the government to watch the “tone” of how they described Beavers’ legal gambling habit.

In another blow to the defense, the judge also said he’d bar evidence that Beavers filed amended tax returns and repaid money to his campaign funds soon after he was confronted by federal agents, unless Beavers takes the stand.

Beavers attorneys claim the amended returns and repayments are evidence he made an honest mistake, rather than committing a crime. But Zagel said that if his attorneys want to use that argument, Beavers will have to testify.

The ruling adds to the mounting pressure for Beavers to do so. On Thursday, Zagel ruled that Beavers would also need to testify if he wants to introduce evidence that he was only charged after he refused to cooperate in an FBI investigation of other politicians.

The government publicly acknowledged for the first time Thursday that Beavers was asked to cooperate during a meeting at which the names “Daley” and “Stroger” came up.

Beavers has long claimed that he refused to wear a wire against Commissioner John Daley, who denies he was ever under investigation.

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.

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