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Beavers can tell jury he tried to make amends, judge rules

Saturday, December 01, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Annie Sweeney

A federal judge ruled Friday that Cook County Commissioner William Beavers can tell a jury that he amended his income tax returns and repaid a campaign fund after he learned of a federal investigation against him. The information is key to Beavers' defense as he goes on trial Monday on charges that from 2006 to 2008 he took more than $225,000 from three campaign funds he controlled, spent the money on personal expenses and then failed to pay income taxes on a portion. He is alleged to have taken almost $69,000 in campaign contributions and placed it in a city retirement fund to more than double his monthly pension in 2006 — all without paying taxes on the money. After federal agents approached Beavers in April 2009 about the tax probe, he filed amended tax returns for 2007 and 2008 just seven days later, declaring an additional $37,000 in income combined for those two years, authorities have said. Beavers maintained he inadvertently omitted the income on the original returns, according to prosecutors. Then five weeks later, he repaid the $69,000, saying it had been a loan. Federal prosecutors sought to bar the information at trial, arguing that it would be irrelevant and a "distraction" for jurors. In addition, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Getter said Friday in court that it was an attempt by Beavers' attorneys to earn sympathy from the jury by showing Beavers had "fixed the problem." But U.S. District James Zagel said Beavers has a right to explain to the jury his reasons for amending the tax returns and repaying the $69,000. "(His) state of mind is crucial to the (jurors)," Zagel said. The judge, though, instructed Beavers' attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, that the only way the jury would hear specifics about the amended tax returns and repaid money was if Beavers takes the witness stand. The defense has been noncommittal about that. Also Friday, prosecutors revealed that they intend to introduce evidence that Beavers often frequented the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, gambling with money that had been taken out of his campaign fund. He is alleged to have failed to pay taxes on that money. Zagel will allow the evidence but told prosecutors to moderate the "tone" of testimony on the gambling after Sorosky raised concern that it could reflect negatively on Beavers.


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