Beavers refuses to take stand at tax-evasion trial

March 20, 2013

Alex Keefe and the Associated Press

Despite vowing for months that he would speak directly to jurors, an influential Cook County commissioner told a federal judge on Wednesday he would not be taking the stand at his tax-evasion trial.

A calm but somber William Beavers walked to a courtroom podium, adjusted his suit coat and looked up at U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who asked if it was the Chicago Democrat's decision not to testify.

"That's a decision I made your honor," Beavers responded in his deep, booming voice.

The 78-year-old Beavers indicated several times that he had difficulty hearing. At one point, he told the judge, "Can you speak up a little so I can hear you?"
Minutes later, the defense rested its casing, having called just two witnesses in lest than a day of testimony.

Beavers pleaded not guilty to four tax charges, including allegations he failed to report campaign cash he used for gambling as income on his federal tax returns. Each count carries a maximum three-year prison term.

Closing arguments were set for Thursday morning.

The one-week tax trial has revolved around otherwise drying accounting issues. But the possibility that tough-talking, rhetorically gifted Beavers could speak in court had attracted wide media attention.

Zagel ruled before testimony started last week that only Beavers could tell jurors he paid overdue taxes and that any mistakes on his taxes were unintentional. That seemed to increase the chances he would testify.

And the former Chicago police officer and alderman, who once bragged about his influence by calling himself the "hog with big nuts," pledged repeatedly in public that he would take the stand.

"I've got to tell what these people are all about," he told reporters last week, referring to prosecutors. "What they're really all about is that they tell some tall tales... I gotta straighten them out."

But testifying would have involved enormous risks, subjecting Beavers to a blistering and potentially damaging cross-examination by prosecutors.

Beavers immediately assumed an air of defiance after his 2012 indictment, going as far as accusing the then-U.S. attorney of using "Gestapo-type tactics" to prosecute him.