CHICAGO — Cook County Commissioner William Beavers went on trial on federal corruption charges Monday, with the lead defense attorney insisting the former Chicago alderman is ready to testify in his own defense.
"The irrepressible William Beavers is 100 percent ready to testify, wants to testify and, should it be necessary, he will," Sam Adam Jr. said as he entered the Dirksen Federal Courthouse downtown Monday. Adam, however, offered no promises that Beavers would take the stand.
Beavers himself, however, had no qualms.
"Yes, I'm gonna testify," he said during a break in the pre-trial proceedings. "Because I've got to tell what these people are really about. If I don't get on the stand, you're not gonna know.
"I don't have no problem telling the truth, and that's the most important thing," he added. "I'm gonna get on the stand and testify and tell the truth, and it's gonna be up to the jury."
Monday's pre-trial court proceedings, however, found defense attorney Aaron Goldstein trying to find other ways to address Beavers' claims that the misuse of campaign funds he's charged with was actually a loan he eventually repaid, and that he is being subjected to "vindictive prosecution" for refusing to wear a wire against Cook County Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago).
Daley has maintained all along that there is no reason to investigate him and that Beavers is trying to deflect attention from his own case.
"An offer was made, so to speak," Goldstein said, and asked about the possibility of cross-examining federal agents on that subject.
Judge James Zagel has previously ruled Beavers can't cite how he amended tax returns, or claim he is being subjected to retribution for not wearing a government wire, unless he takes the stand in his own defense. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Getter argued it would "sour the jury" for defense attorneys to suggest federal agents had indulged in "strong-arm tactics" against Beavers.
Zagel drew a sharp line between questioning a federal agent's trustworthiness in cross examination and suggesting Beavers was being subjected to "vindictive prosecution." The first was a normal part of trial, he said, the latter something for the judge, not the jury, to determine.
The ruling that Beavers has to testify to bring up the amended tax returns or suggest the trial is pure retribution was left standing. But both Beavers and Adam made clear they intend to pursue that argument.
"They asked me to be a stool pigeon," Beavers said. "And I'm not a stool pigeon."
"That's all this is is retribution," Adam said. "That's why he's sitting here is retribution because he wouldn't wear a wire."
In other pre-trial activity, Zagel ordered that the members of the jury will be kept anonymous until they reach a verdict.
"I'm trying to assure that there are no outside contacts with jurors," Zagel said.
Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday morning, and Zagel made it clear he intends for it to move swiftly, with opening statements no later than Wednesday morning, and perhaps as early as Tuesday afternoon depending on how quickly a jury is seated.