* 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.
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.
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.