CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Commissioner William Beavers on Friday pleaded not guilty to tax-evasion charges and lashed out at U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, saying the prosecutor has caused the suicides of three people through “Gestapo-type tactics.”
The former Chicago alderman repeated claims that the feds were punishing him for refusing to wear a wire to get incriminating evidence against fellow Commissioner John Daley.
“Let me tell you about this federal prosecutor,” Beavers said, referring to Fitzgerald. “This man is like a wild man on a train, and somebody needs to stop him. He has caused three deaths – Michael Scott, Orlando Jones, and Chris Kelly — with these Gestapo-type tactics that he used to try to make them tell on their friends.”
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Scott, who was Chicago School Board President; political insider Jones and Kelly, a fundraiser and adviser to ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, all committed suicide. Kelly had been convicted of federal tax charges, while Scott and Jones reportedly faced legal problems.
Beavers allegedly faied to report and pay taxes on income he earned by using campaign funds and county expense accounts for personal use. After his not-guilty plea, he was released on his own recognizance. Before he left the federal courthouse, he unloaded on Fitzgerald, saying it would be a disaster if he ever headed the FBI.
“That would be the worst thing that could ever happen. He would be worse than J. Edgar Hoover,” Beavers said.
The 77-year-old politician was indicted last week on three counts of filing false federal income tax returns and one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the IRS in an indictment returned earlier.
Reporters asked Beavers if it was wise to criticize Fitzgerald, whose office has successfully prosecuted a variety of politicians and operatives, including Blagojevich and former Gov. George Ryan, in corruption cases. Sam Adam Jr., Beavers’ defense attorney, said it was appropriate.
“The truth is like a burning torch. The more you shake it, the brighter that flame gets, and he is out here telling the truth and he will be vindicated,” Adam said.
Adam says the money was all loans, and that everything has been repaid. Records will bear that out, he said.
Fitzgerald’s office said it would not comment on Beavers’ remarks.
John Daley, brother of former Mayor Richard Daley, has denied that he’s being investigated by the feds and said he didn’t know why Beavers would drag him into the case.
The indictment alleges Beavers repeatedly used campaign funds and his county expense account for personal gain between 2006 and 2008 and did not report the money on his personal income taxes.
According to federal prosecutors, Beavers paid himself more than $225,000 from three campaign accounts between 2006 and 2008, to use for personal reasons, including gambling.
The indictment alleges that, starting in January 2006, Beavers began writing himself checks from his campaign fund to use for personal purposes, including gambling.
In all, he wrote approximately 100 checks to himself — $96,000 worth in 2006; $69,300 worth in 2007; and $61,000 worth in 2008. He also allegedly used his campaign workers to prepare false campaign finance reports to falsify records about those checks to himself and disguise them as legitimate campaign expenditures.
Beavers allegedly used one of those checks — for $68,763.07 — to boost his city pension fund in order to get a larger annuity when he retired from the City Council.
Prosecutors also claim, after he became a county commissioner, Beavers used his $1,200 monthly county expense account for personal reasons, without reporting any of the money as income on his federal income tax returns.
Each of the four charges Beavers faces carries up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus restitution. No court appearances have yet been scheduled for Beavers.