U.S. District Judge James Zagel issued a gag order today at the federal tax trial of Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, telling attorneys on both sides they could not make any public statements about the case.
The order remains in effect until a verdict is reached, he said.
The judge's order came a day after Beavers’ defense team – particularly Sam Adam Sr. – strongly criticized the randomly selected jury pool for racial imbalance and said the selection process was “rigged.”
The panel of 50 prospective jurors had no black men and just a handful of black women.
Beavers, accused of failing to pay taxes on tens of thousands of dollars he diverted from his campaign funds for personal expenses, is African-American.
Beavers’ legal team formally raised concerns to Zagel on Tuesday about the racial makeup of the jury pool, prompting the judge to tell both sides to inquire with the district’s clerk office to make sure the proper protocols were followed. Zagel said he would continue with selection in the meantime.
Beavers’ attorneys then addressed the media outside the courthouse at the end of the day.
Zagel issued the gag order this morning as his first order of business without any request from either side, saying public commentary “frequently distracts lawyers from the purpose.”
Beavers is also represented by Adam’s son, Sam Adam Jr. Both attorneys are known for their banter with the news media during trials, and Zagel made clear to the attorneys how serious he was about his restriction.
“When I say no statements, I mean no statements,” he said.
A jury could be seated by early afternoon, clearing the way for opening statements to be heard today in court.Copyright © 2015, RedEye