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Race card played, gag order issued

Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013

* Comments made by defense attorneys yesterday have apparently prompted a gag order in Cook County Commissioner Bill Beavers’ federal trial

The judge in the tax-evasion trial of an influential Chicago Democrat has imposed a gag order on attorneys a day after a defense lawyer said jury-pool selection was “rigged.”

The judge in William Beavers’ trial on Wednesday did not refer directly to the comments made by the Cook County Commissioner’s lawyer, Sam Adam Sr.

* The back story from Fox Chicago

Beaver’s defense attorneys say they were shocked when the pool of 50 potential jurors filed into Judge James Zagel’s courtroom and there wasn’t one African American man among them.

“I am outraged, outraged, by what happened today,” defense attorney Sam Adam said. “I thought I was in Mississippi, I thought I was down there in Money, Mississippi, trying Emmett Till’s killers.”

Defense attorney Sam Adam, erupted in anger, after Judge James Zagel refused to request a new pool of potential jurors for William Beavers’ trial for failing to pay income taxes.

The 50 jurors from which 12 will be selected include just three black women and no black men.

“Commissioner Beavers is a black man and of 50 prospective jurors, not one black man,” defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky commented. “How is that a jury of his peers?”

* The jurors, of course, are randomly selected

“We were astonished,” Beavers attorney Victor Henderson said to Zagel after the jury was excused from the courtroom. “There is not one black male and just one or two black females.”

After hearing from Henderson, Zagel acknowledged it was rare to have a panel without a black male, but he also said there are potential legal problems with dismissing a properly-selected random panel.

Zagel declined the defense request and instead instructed both prosecutors and defense attorneys to confer with the U.S. Clerk’s office for the Northern District of Illinois to ensure the selection process used to put together the larger panel was done according to established protocols. […]

Outside court, Beavers’ attorneys called the process “rigged” and said they had no confidence that checking with the clerk’s office would make a difference.

* And speaking of the jurors, their names will not be released until after it’s all over...

Zagel said he would keep the names of jurors sealed until after the trial ends — a rare move normally reserved for mob or terrorist trials, or for especially high-profile cases.

In explaining why he opted for an anonymous jury, Zagel noted the case had drawn major media interest in the Chicago area.

“I’m trying to ensure there are no outside contacts with jurors,” he said.

* Beavers, by the way, continues to insist that he will testify

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.

More

Beavers and his team of lawyers say the money taken from the campaign fund was paid back and tax returns were amended.

Prosecutors allege Beavers made those moves after he learned he was under investigation. The defense denies that.

“Once you hear what happened here and find out the time period when receipts are given, the time period when money is given back, and you go through it, you’re going to see there’s only one answer here as to why a prosecution came at all: and that answer is going to be because he wouldn’t cooperate with the government,” said Beavers’ attorney Sam Adam Jr.

More

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). […]

“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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


27 Comments
  1. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    Hey. Don’t forget to check the box “exclude African Americans” when you run the randomly generated cards summoning somebody for jury duty.

    Look . . . a squirrel!!


  2. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    I think Beavers has more lawyers (and many of the same lawyers) than Rod had. Oh, and they’re just as believable in their outrage as they were with Rod (play the tapes) Blago.

    Still, the lack of African American men on the jury is a bit bizarre and worth looking to make sure their random pool was random. I assume it is, but for perception interests if nothing else, they should take a look.


  3. - Downstater - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    Sick and tired of those folks playing the race card. It is disgusting and demeaning to others of their race.


  4. - Carl Nyberg - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:42 am:

    I was in the Maybrook court and was surprised at the low rate of representation of African-Americans in the juries actually seated.

    I think the courts need to improve at getting African-Americans on actual juries.

    This is true for all juries, civil and criminal, when the plaintiffs are Black, when the defendants are Black and when they aren’t.


  5. - Esquire - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:42 am:

    I am surprised that the Beavers defense team kept their rants so mild. Last week at Chicago State University, Henderson complained that those seeking to remove the university president were something akin to the persecutors of Christ.

    This case has the potential to rival the Drew Peterson carnival in Joliet for lawyers behaving bady.


  6. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    Peers? The Jury should consist of Stroger, Verdolyak, Blago, Patti, George Ryan, JJJ and Sandi J, Peracia, Derrick Smith, Mel Reynolds, James Laski and Arenda Troutman


  7. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:50 am:

    C’mon man. You knew this trial was going to be a circus from the git-go and the Adam’s Family is in the center ring.
    Any non-gray hairs left on Judge Zagel’s head will be long gone when this is over.


  8. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    Looks like Beavers got the old Blago band back together.

    The lawyers have to raise what Zagel described as the rare occurrence of no black male in a pool of 50 or they would forfeit the opportunity as a basis for appeal later.

    You pay lawyers a lot of money, you want them to work the system for you, not be PC. They’re going against the unlimited resources of the Justice Department, for crying out loud.

    I imagine Beavers will testify. If he doesn’t, and the amended returns can’t be entered into evidence, tax evasion is pretty open and shut.


  9. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    I don’t like Sam Adams’ usual tactics. He still has a point.

    If the claimed “strong arm tactics” by the Feds “would sour the jury”, as the US Attorney openly states, then that is the best argument possible for having the jury hear direct testimony about them. It is for the jury to decide the question of “vindictive prosecution”, or is the Judge assuming they are incompetent to do so?

    Federal prosecutors have slowly drifted out of any reasonable control, with the ultimate sanction of the public cut out of the process.


  10. - Conservative Veteran - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 10:54 am:

    No one should care abour a juror’s race. When Blago was tried, I don’t think that he or his lawyers mentioned the races of those jurors.


  11. - Rudy - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 11:05 am:

    For two weeks in October 2011, I reported daily to the Federal building jury pool. In the room were several hundred potential jurors, who would be sent to various courtrooms every day for voir dire. I saw the same phenomenon among the hundreds of jurors: a few black females and no black males.


  12. - Amalia - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 11:14 am:

    Beavers has always been a bully and rude in whatever situation I encountered him. here’s hoping things are handled properly in the trial and that whatever the outcome that Beavers is humbled by the experience. one of the absolute worst public officials I have ever met. playing the race card is something Beavers does when he wakes up every morning.


  13. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    “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…”

    Wonder if that ruling prohibits the defense from subpoenaing IRS officials or those who allegedly requested that Beavers wear the wire.


  14. - girllawyer - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 11:31 am:

    How, exactly, do you “improve” the outcome of a process that is designed to be random?


  15. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 11:43 am:

    Comparing this trial to Emmett Till’s killers is a little, no a lot, over the top. This isn’t the South. Try to make that case on appeal and get laughed out of the court.


  16. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 11:46 am:

    I wonder if they would say the same thing if a bunch of African Americans made up the jury pool of a white defendant? I’m guessing not. Race is, and always has been, a double standard. Use the race card when you have nothing better. African Americans do nothing for the cause against racism, which does exist, when they make arguments like this.


  17. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 12:07 pm:

    –Race is, and always has been, a double standard.–

    True. Used to be some could own slaves, some could not. Some could vote, some could not. Some could live anywhere they wanted, some could not, etc., etc.

    Is that what you meant?


  18. - funny guy - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 12:40 pm:

    I’m guessing we will need two more generations before the race card will be put to rest.


  19. - Belle - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 12:43 pm:

    To a certain degree, I’m with Wumpus on this—Beavers’s peers are not the normal person(of any color) walking down the street.
    If you go with the defense queries on the possible pool, they should be questioning why the jury pool isn’t people who are or were politicans and/or rich people rather than black men.
    It must feel really weird for Beavers to be so out of control for the first time in many decades.


  20. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 12:46 pm:

    @word:

    No, not really. My point was (at the risk of being called a racist) that race arguments are a one-way street. It’s automatically racism in cases such as this, but in my scenario of an all black jury pool for a white defendant, you would be crucified if you complained based on the race of jurors.


  21. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 12:53 pm:

    I am not surprised at all that these particular lawyers would pull this particular grandstanding stunt.


  22. - carbaby - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 12:56 pm:

    It is very disturbing that a pool of randomly selected jurors would not be at least somewhat reflective/representative of the diversity of the population. I’m not saying there is anything nefarious going on but it just makes it look bad on its face and just fueled the already burning fire for Beavers and the Adam family. Now that will be the focus instead of the case at hand- it really is a distraction. As if there really needed to be one.


  23. - Zygmuntovich - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 1:16 pm:

    What are the criteria for selection into the pool in a federal case. for a state case, the names are selected from the clerk’s voters registration list and the secretary of state records for those with drivers licenses.


  24. - LincolnLounger - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 1:30 pm:

    Poor Judge Zagel. He earns every penny of that federal salary.


  25. - Downstater - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 1:38 pm:

    =When Blago was tried, I don’t think that he or his lawyers mentioned the races of those jurors.=
    By the defense attorney’s position on make up of the jury, Blogajevick’s should have been made up of barbers and beauticians.


  26. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 2:02 pm:

    “. . . a pool of randomly selected jurors would not be at least somewhat reflective/representative of the diversity of the population.” That assumes that the pool to randomly choose from reflects the diversity of the population. Since the list isn’t drawn from census data, that may not be true. And if the choice is truly “random” and even if the pool is 10,000 minority and 12 white, then there’s still a chance the jury will be those 12.


  27. - park - Wednesday, Mar 13, 13 @ 4:31 pm:

    Golly gee willikers Mr. Adam, guess the case will have to be tried on the facts now, right?

    Adam is out of his league in a federal criminal trial….this ain’t 26th street. Thought he’d have learned from his last experience with Judge Zagel.


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