Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, appearing today in federal court for the first time on tax charges, leveled harsh allegations against U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, saying he used “Gestapo-like tactics” that led to the suicides of three public figures who were under investigation.
Beavers’ claim came after he entered a plea of not guilty to charges that he didn’t pay taxes on tens of thousands of dollars he took from his campaign funds and his county expense account. Beavers was released on his own recognizance pending trial.
“Let me tell you about this federal prosecutor,” an emotional Beavers said in the lobby of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse after his arraignment. “This is like a wild man on a train, and somebody needs to stop him. He has caused three deaths: Michael Scott, Orlando Jones and Chris Kelly with the Gestapo-type tactics that he used to try to make them tell on their friends.”
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald, declined comment. But Beaver’s allegations don’t square with the known facts about two of the suicides.
Scott, the former Chicago schools chief, was not being investigated by federal authorities but his use of his Chicago public school credit card had been questioned.
Jones, a former top Cook County aide, was under investigation for an alleged contract scheme in Las Vegas.
Kelly, a top adviser and fundraiser to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was about to report to prison after he had been convicted of corruption by Fitzgerald’s office.
Last week John Daley said he is not aware of any investigation and accused Beavers of trying to shift the focus from himself.
Beavers, a onetime beat cop and former City Council member known for his frequent praise of patronage politics, said that $68,000 the government accused him of taking from a campaign account to make a payment that more than doubled his council pension payments was a loan he took from the fund and paid back.
The indictment also accused him of failing to pay taxes on $28,000 he took from his county expense fund as personal income and an unspecified sum of money from three campaign funds. Beavers said he paid some of that money back or paid taxes on it.
“I do not owe the government any money, no taxes, and I do not owe the committee any money,” he told a throng of reporters as he was leaving the courthouse. “Is that understood?”
Beavers was flanked in court by four attorneys, mostly notably the team of Sam Adam Sr. and his son, Sam Adam Jr., who defended former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the first of two corruption trials.
Asked by U.S. District Judge James Zagel about his health, Beavers said he took nightly medication for high blood pressure and his heart, as well as a blood thinning medication. “For a 77-year-old man, I’m in pretty good shape,” Beavers said.
Another Beavers’ lawyer, Victor Henderson, later displayed an April 24, 2009, letter from Fitzgerald’s office that stated Beavers was reluctant to speak with two specific FBI agents without an attorney.
Signed by Assistant U.S. Atty. Matthew Getter, who handled the arraignment, it suggested Beavers hire an attorney and speak with the FBI. Otherwise, charges of tax evasion would be brought, it stated.
“Everything the commissioner says is true,” Sam Adam Jr. said after the arraignment, adding that tax returns, amended tax returns and canceled checks would prove his client’s innocence. “You are going to find out he doesn’t owe a dime in taxes. ... The truth is like a burning torch. The more you shake it, the brighter it gets.”