Updated 12/03/12 – 2:33 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Cook County Commissioner William Beavers vowed to take the stand in his own defense Monday as the first stages of jury selection got underway for his upcoming tax evasion trial.
“I have no problem taking the witness stand; never had a problem,” Beavers said. “I will. No question about it, I’ll be on the stand. I’ll raise my hand, and swear before God, and tell the truth, and tell them that my taxes are paid.”
Potential jurors were brought in Monday morning to begin filling out questionnaires, but the rest of jury selection was pushed back for at least a day, due to the illness of Beavers’ lead defense attorney, Victor Henderson.
Beavers said he’s been wanting to take the stand to testify ever since he was indicted in February for allegedly using more than $225,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, without declaring the money as income on his federal taxes.
He has contended federal prosecutors charged him only because he refused to cooperate three years ago, when they asked him to wear a wire on fellow Cook County Commissioner John Daley and then-Board President Todd Stroger.
Beavers said federal prosecutors have denied until recently that they asked him to wear a wire to record his conversations with Daley and Stroger.
“They have amnesia. They can’t remember this, they can’t remember that. Where are their notes? You know, they’re supposed to have some notes. Bring your notes, let me look at them,” Beavers said.
His defense attorneys have said his refusal to cooperate with federal prosecutors against Daley and Stroger is a central part of their case.
“That’s what this whole case is about, if you want to know the truth,” defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. said. “This is retribution for him not cooperating.”
Defense attorneys also said they’re confident Beavers will be acquitted.
“When the evidence is in … you’re gonna see that he doesn’t owe one dime on his taxes, as of today,” defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. said. “He doesn’t owe one thing on his taxes, and the evidence is gonna show that.”
Defense attorneys have claimed, because he filed amended tax returns and repaid the money he borrowed, Beavers did not commit a crime, only made an honest mistake. But prosecutors have argued Beavers only repaid the money after he was confronted by federal agents, and that his repayment of the money later is irrelevant to the alleged crime of failing to pay income taxes on the money he borrowed.
Judge James Zagel has ruled Beavers may only tell the jury about filing amended returns and repaying the campaign money if he testifies. He’s also left the door open for Beavers to tell the jury about his refusal to wear a wire, but his attorneys must first ask permission to bring up the subject in front of the jury.
While jurors were filling out questionnaires on Monday, Beavers showed reporters copies of a letter from federal prosecutors acknowledging an FBI agent asked him to wear a wire.