As cool as the glass eyes in a stuffed elk head

No tears from Beavers at sentencing

In the minutes before his sentencing at the Dirksen Federal Building on Wednesday morning, Chicago pol Bill Beavers didn't blubber like so many others who had gone before him.

There was no upper-lip syncopation under the courtroom's fluorescent lights.

Instead, Beavers was cool, as cold as the glass eyes in a stuffed elk head bought by his archrivals, the Jacksons.

A friend spotted Beavers about 20 minutes before the sentencing hearing: Beavers alone in the federal cafeteria, working on a nice breakfast, his tie tossed over his shoulder to keep it from spotting, munching on his eggs and flipping through the morning papers.

And less than an hour later, when he beat the federal prosecutors — receiving only a six-month sentence when they wanted almost two years for tax evasion — I couldn't help but smile.

I know I shouldn't smile. Corruption is wrong. Tax evasion should be punished. And taking cash from your campaign funds to blow it at the casinos is foolish.

But Beavers, the former 7th Ward Chicago alderman and Cook County commissioner, the self-described "hog with the big nuts," never pretended to be a reformer.

There wasn't anything phony about his ways. And there are so many phonies in politics, people who are so ostentatiously squeaky clean, so obnoxious in their public virtue, that you can't help but wish for some of them to be indicted.

And who can't admire honesty in a rogue?

"My life is good, man," he said in his gravelly South Side bullfrog voice after being sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

"Listen, I'm retired," continued Beavers. "I shop. I go to the store. I golf. I do any and everything I want to do. And like I said, I ain't begging for nothing. I don't beg my woman, so you know I wasn't gonna beg the judge, all right?"

No, he didn't beg. Actually, he seemed to smirk, or at least offer a half-smile, when the sentence came down.

"Nah, it wasn't a smile," he said afterward. "Hell, I don't want no sentence, OK? I don't want no time, all right?"

So why didn't he make a statement before sentencing?

"He's the judge, OK?" said Beavers. "I don't want to piss him off because then he'll probably do something I don't want him to do."

It sure didn't look as if Zagel was punishing Beavers much.

Zagel sentenced Beavers to six months in prison, plus one year of supervised release, in which Beavers is not to gamble or visit casinos or racetracks. Also, Beavers must pay a $10,000 fine, plus restitution to the government of $30,848.

Not bad, considering that the U.S. attorney's office wanted much more.

At least Beavers didn't put on one of those mawkish emotional parades, with character witnesses singing his praises and writing those awfully sappy letters of mercy.

I saw that in the sentencing hearing in Zagel's courtroom for Big Bill Cellini, the Republican shadow boss of the Combine. Cellini won untold millions from political connections and also developed friends like former Gov. Jim Edgar, who got down from his white horse of reform long enough to write to the judge on Cellini's behalf.

CHICAGO

More