After vowing he would testify, Beavers doesn't

Originally Posted Online: March 20, 2013, 4:59 pm
Last Updated: March 21, 2013, 8:12 am
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story

CHICAGO (AP) - 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 tan 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 as he stood several yards from the judge's bench. At one point, he told Zagel, "Can you speak up a little so I can hear you?"

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.

Beavers' announcement that he wouldn't testify came just before the defense rested. The defense's case lasted half a day and involved just one witness, an accountant who said tax laws involve a variety of interpretations.

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 one person, Beavers himself, could tell jurors he paid overdue taxes and that any mistakes on his returns 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 a "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."

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. And that, too, suggested he might testify.

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

Another prominent defendant tried in Zagel's courtroom, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, also insisted before his first trial that he would testify. But he chose not to in that initial trial, which ended with a hung jury.

Blagojevich did testify at his retrial and was convicted on multiple corruption counts; he's now serving a 14-year prison term in Colorado.

Blagojevich's lead attorney at his first trial, Sam Adam Jr., is delivering the closing for Beavers on Thursday. Carrie Hamilton, one of the trial attorneys for the government at both of Blagojevich's trials, will close for the prosecution.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)