CHICAGO (CBS) – After being delayed for more than three months, the start of Cook County Commissioner William Beavers’ tax trial was off to a slow start Monday, when jury selection was pushed back a day to iron out the questions jurors will be asked.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports potential jurors will begin filling out questionnaires and then be questioned by the judge on Tuesday, after prosecutors and defense attorneys put the finishing touches on the questionnaires.
Beavers’ trial on tax evasion charges was originally set to begin in early December, but was delayed when his lead defense attorney fell ill.
As he arrived at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Monday, Beavers again promised to take the stand in his own defense, even though that would open him up to rigorous cross-examination by federal prosecutors.
Beavers, a former Chicago alderman who has described himself as “the hog with the big nuts,” 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.
“What they’re really all about is that they tell some tall tales, you know? And I’ve got to straighten them out,” Beavers said Monday.
Prosecutors allege Beavers borrowed more than $225,000 from his campaign fund and converted it for personal use – including trips to a riverboat casino – and filed tax returns on the money only after learning he was under federal investigation.
Beavers and his defense team have said there was no intent to defraud, and have claimed all the money he borrowed was paid back well before a grand jury got involved.
Prosecutors have said Beavers’ repayment of the borrowed campaign funds after the investigation began is irrelevant to the alleged crime of failing to report and pay income taxes on the money at the time he borrowed it.
Judge James Zagel has said Beavers can only testify he repaid the money from his campaign fund if he takes the stand. If he does, he also can testify about being approached by the feds to wear a wire.
Zagel said a jury should be seated in time to start opening statements on Wednesday.