CHICAGO (AP) — An influential Chicago Democrat who famously compared himself to a virile hog was convicted on Thursday of tax evasion for not declaring campaign cash he gambled away on slot machines as income.
The tough-talking, rhetorically gifted William Beavers — who once bragged about the extent of his influence in and around Chicago by describing himself as a "hog with big nuts" — kept his eyes fixed on the clerk as the verdict was read, but the 78-year-old showed no emotion. His attorney, Sam Adam Jr., flinched and bit his lip. Beavers slumped momentarily in his chair as jurors left the room. After court adjourned, Adam walked up to Beavers at the defense table, shook his hand and said, "I'm sorry."
Beavers, whose commissioner's salary is $85,000, lost $500,000 over three years at Indiana's Horseshoe Casino, sometimes writing himself one $2,000 campaign check after another on daylong gambling binges.
The former policeman and one-time alderman was convicted of all four tax counts — one for trying to obstruct the IRS and three counts for filings false tax returns from 2006 through 2008. Each count carries a maximum three-year prison term.
During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutor Carrie Hamilton told jurors that Beavers dipped into his campaign coffers for gambling money and then failed to declare it as income.
Adam, in his last pitch to jurors, said government attorneys had twisted the evidence. In a booming voice, he told jurors that the prosecutors "are trying to bamboozle you."
It isn't illegal to gamble with campaign cash, but not declaring campaign money used for personal benefit as income is illegal.
Beavers' gambling habit also provided a motive for why he needed a steady, untaxed flow of cash. Out of 100 checks he wrote to himself from his campaign coffers — worth around $225,000 — 93 were written the day before, the day of or day after he was at the casino, government evidence indicated.
Beavers took steps to conceal his use of campaign money at casinos, once falsely indicating on a check stub that money was used to print campaign signs, prosecutors said.
Beavers claimed before the trial that authorities charged him in retaliation for his refusal in 2009 to wear a wire against Commissioner John Daley, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
After his indictment in 2012, Beavers told reporters he had refused to be a "stool pigeon" for the feds, and lashed out at the then-chief prosecutor for allegedly using "Gestapo-style tactics" to get him.