Monday, December 3, 2012

Beavers gets to speak again, sort of

It has been interesting watching William Beavers in public in recent months.
BEAVERS: Taking the gag off?

Largely because he’s gone out of his way to pipe down.

THE ONE-TIME SIXTH Ward alderman who now represents the Far South Side and some surrounding suburbs on the Cook County Board used to be the guy who had an opinion about everything.

He was the one who would openly criticize officials for their actions, and also would be the lone official who would be willing to speak favorably about policies of the former board president – Todd Stroger.

Beavers, a Chicago cop before he got into electoral politics, was the blunt-spoken guy who wouldn’t let anybody intimidate him. Or at least that was the image he liked to create for himself.

I bring this up because ever since he was indicted by federal prosecutors on charges that he misspent money that was meant to be campaign contributions and also engaged in irregularities with the Internal Revenue Service, Beavers has been muted.

THERE ARE ENTIRE county board meetings in which he says nothing at all. Even when he does speak, his comments are so tame compared to the thoughts that I suspect are actually going through his head.

Which makes sense. I’m sure his attorney gave him the legal advice to tone down his act. I’m also sure he feels frustrated and muzzled; and is desperately waiting for the day that he can start speaking out again.

Will that come this week?

Because jury selection for Beavers’ trial was scheduled to begin Monday. It is likely that by week’s end, we will hear opening arguments and may even get to hear the first witnesses in the federal government’s case against Beavers – whom they claim went so far over the line when it came to campaign finance reporting that he violated the law!

OF COURSE, BEAVERS himself has claimed the only reason he’s being prosecuted now is because he refused to tell prosecutors anything when they sought information about someone else under investigation.

He’s even gone so far as to imply that prosecutors wanted him to wear a wire tap, which he just wouldn’t do.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel ruled last week that Beavers and his attorneys are NOT allowed to offer up this theory during the upcoming trial.

Although Zagel also ruled that Beavers can tell jurors about how he tried to restore money to his campaign fund and amend his tax returns – once he was informed that some people with expertise regarded his initial efforts as legally flawed.

THAT ACTUALLY IS a concession. Federal prosecutors had wanted any mention of those efforts to also be banned from the trial. They just want it told that the tax returns were flawed – nothing that might resemble nuance or detail.

But in order for Beavers to bring up any of his efforts to show he’s basically a law-abiding guy, Zagel said he has to take the stand and testify. Which means exposing himself to direct questioning from federal prosecutors!

Most criminal defendants go out of their way to avoid those circumstances. Will Beavers be so confident in himself that he’ll think he can handle the “G-men?”

Will we get the Beavers bravado of old? Or will his attorneys continue to tell him to pipe down – out of fear that he’ll say something that manages to offend the prosecutorial powers-that-be even more?

PERSONALLY, I’M SKEPTICAL about this case. Because I know that the basics of campaign finance law does allow for some personal use of money from political contributions – provided that it gets reported as income and the IRS gets its percentage as taxes.

I also realize that there is a legal way by which a public official can buy credit for more time to be applied to a future pension.

So there is a way in which Beavers could have been legally doing these things. It all is a matter of degree.

Which may well be why we got those stories Saturday in the Chicago Sun-Times – the ones with the big front page headlines telling us FEDS: BEAVERS ‘LOST A LOT’ AT CASINO.

THE IDEA THAT Beavers took money donated to his political campaign and lost it at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., sounds way more sordid than Beavers trying to get himself a larger pension upon his eventual retirement.

Although in my mind, I’m most offended at the idea that Beavers took all that money and lost it in Indiana. Perhaps the Hoosier State can offer him political asylum once this criminal case is complete.


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