'No question' Beavers will testify at federal tax trial

Cook County Commissioner appears in court dressed to the nines, to 'command respect' he says.

December 3, 2012

(AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Indicted Cook County Commissioner William Beavers says there’s “no question” he’ll take the stand in his federal tax evasion trial.

The longtime Chicago Democrat, known for his snappy suits and off-color turns of phrase, spoke to reporters after a brief court hearing Monday.

“No question about it,” Beavers said after a brief court hearing Monday afternoon. “I’ll be on the stand, I’ll raise my hand, I’ll swear before God and tell the truth – and tell them that my taxes are paid.”

Beavers was charged in February for allegedly using more than $226,000 from his campaign and County Board accounts for gambling and other personal expenses, but not paying taxes on the money. He also allegedly caused campaign finance documents to be falsified in order to cover his tracks, according to the indictment.

The commissioner’s own testimony would allow his defense team to bring up two key arguments that Judge James Zagel had barred his lawyers from bringing up – unless Beavers himself takes the stand.

Beavers said he plans to testify that he’s only being prosecuted because he refused to be a “stool pigeon” – aka informant – for federal agents. On Monday, his defense team distributed a letter it said they received from prosecutors last week, in which the government acknowledges agents asked Beavers to cooperate when they first confronted him about their investigation.

“[T]hey have amnesia, you know?” Beavers said. “They can’t remember this, they can’t remember that. Where are their notes? I know they’re supposed to have some notes. Bring your notes. Let me look at ‘em.”

Beavers also said he plans to tell a jury that he paid all of the taxes he owed. Defense attorneys have said Beavers amended his tax returns and cut a check to one of his campaign accounts, to show that he rectified an honest mistake. But the government says Beavers only scrambled to change his tax forms and pay the money back after he found out he was the target of an investigation.

Beavers, an old-school Chicago ward boss who once famously described himself as the “hog with the big nuts,” spoke to reporters for less than two minutes after Monday’s hearing. But his clothing seemed designed to make a statement: He showed up to court in a monogrammed periwinkle dress shirt with French cuffs, and a midnight blue suit for the first day of his trial.

“Well, your appearance commands respect,” Beavers said before the hearing.

Jury selection is set to pick up again first thing Tuesday morning, with opening statements possible on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday.