In one afternoon in April 2007, Cook County Commissioner William Beavers cashed three checks from one of three campaign funds – for a total of $6,000 – and went to the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond to gamble, prosecutors alleged today as his trial on tax-evasion charges got underway.
While gambling at a casino boat is not illegal, what Beavers did next was, Assistant U.S. Atty. Samuel Cole told the jury. Beavers, a “seasoned politician” well-versed in campaign-finance rules, failed to report any of that cash as income and then never paid taxes on it, he charged.
“The defendant knew these rules from his many, many years of raising and spending campaign money,” Cole told the jury as a stern-faced Beavers swiveled slowly in his chair. “ … There is nothing wrong with gambling at the Horseshoe Casino … (But) he didn’t want to declare those checks.”
In his opening statement, Cole told the jury that the April afternoon was only one of numerous examples in which the longtime Chicago Democrat spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on personal expenses and then didn’t pay taxes on the money.
Beavers’ gambling losses at the river boats was the only personal expense cited by Cole in a 30-minute opening that laid out a straightforward prosecution case.
Beavers, Cole said, had been burned with a $27,000 tax bill after reporting $43,000 in campaign funds he converted in 2005. Over the next three years, he failed to report the converted campaign cash, the prosecutor alleged.
Beavers attorney, Sam Adam Jr., however, struck hard at the prosecution case with his characteristic dramatic style, claiming it was missing one essential ingredient: a crime.
“William Beavers didn’t commit a crime at all,” said Adam, his voice rising. “This is a unique case where there is no crime!”
Adam repeatedly told the jury that any money Beavers took from campaign funds were loans and that he eventually paid $196,000 of the $226,000 that the government says he didn’t report to the Internal Revenue Service.
“You would be Visa’s #1 client if you paid back 86 percent of any loan,” Adam said.
Adam delivered his 30-minute opening in a booming voice and cast his client as a man from a humble background whose father taught him to always repay any loans. Adam also noted Beavers’ age – 78 – and reminded the jury that taxes are a complicated task that many taxpayers leave to accountants.
“Just like 250 million Americans who got W2s, Mr. Beavers stuck it in a box and gave it to his accountant,” Adam said of one of the disputed tax forms.
Adam also questioned why federal authorities did not alert Beavers to his apparent tax trouble during the three years he allegedly dodged his taxes. He finished his opening statement with a mysterious hint that something else was going on in the government’s investigation.
“By the end of this case, you’re gonna know why they didn’t come talk to him,” Adam said. “Its’ got ‘nuttin to do with taxes. And it ain’t got ‘nuttin to do with gambling.”
Beavers has long contended that federal authorities investigated his taxes after he refused a request from federal agents to wear a wire on his fellow commissioner, John Daley, brother of former Mayor Richard Daley. But U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who is presiding over the case, has ruled that this story can be told only by Beavers himself.
John Daley has not been charged with any wrongdoing.