The trial of Prince George's County Council member Anthony J. Cicoria and his wife, Catherine, was delayed again yesterday after the missing Catherine Cicoria, in a letter to her lawyer, said she is distraught and needs more time to settle herself emotionally before facing a jury.
Anthony Cicoria, accused with his wife of stealing $64,324 from his campaign fund, described the contents of the letter in a brief courthouse interview yesterday and said it left him "deeply concerned" about her mental state.
Meanwhile, Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley, who on Monday postponed the couple's trial for 24 hours because of Catherine Cicoria's unexplained absence, read her letter privately yesterday, ordered it sealed and put off jury selection until Tuesday.
The letter was handwritten on about six sheets of plain white paper and delivered by Federal Express to Catherine Cicoria's attorney at the Prince George's County courthouse yesterday morning, Anthony Cicoria said. Its place of origin was not immediately clear, according to attorneys and county sheriff's investigators who have been searching for the woman.
Cicoria said his 52-year-old wife, who was last seen Saturday in Florida, "indicated that she wants a couple of weeks" to herself, and eventually will surrender to face trial.
"She's stressed out quite a bit," Cicoria said. "She's been under constant, constant stress. She left her job. Bill collectors have been all around . . . . The letter indicated she was very disturbed about the way this case was being handled, and the way our rights were being handled."
Cicoria, declining to quote directly from the letter, said his wife did not say she was considering harming herself. "But I have very deep concerns," Cicoria said. "She's been under a very big strain."
Catherine Cicoria's attorney, Joseph Touhey, said his client's emotional stress has been made worse by the medical condition of her mother, who Touhey said is ill with a heart condition and cancer.
He added that Catherine Cicoria "has been under a doctor's care."
Touhey said his client was in Florida with her husband over the weekend, and had planned to fly alone from there to Syracuse, N.Y., to visit her mother. When Anthony Cicoria last saw his wife Saturday morning in Florida, he was leaving to drive to a business appointment and she was waiting for a cab to take her to an airport, Touhey said.
Anthony Cicoria returned to Maryland alone, intending to pick up his wife Sunday night at National Airport upon her return from Syracuse, according to the council member's attorney, Robert Mance. The lawyer said Catherine Cicoria never arrived at the airport, and her husband later learned from relatives in Syracuse that she had not arrived there either.
Attorneys in the case have declined to say where in Florida the couple stayed. Cicoria is part owner of a beachfront condominium in the Palm Beach County community of Jupiter, and Prince George's investigators said Palm Beach authorities are helping search for the woman.
Prince George's Sheriff James V. Aluisi, whose fugitive unit is leading the search, said deputies yesterday were trying to locate a photograph of Catherine Cicoria, as well as a copy of her fingerprints. He said federal authorities require those items before they will seek a warrant for her arrest on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Anthony Cicoria, 50, a second-term Democrat who faces token opposition in his November reelection bid, is charged with three counts of evading Maryland income taxes and one count each of felony theft and conspiracy. He remains free on bond pending the trial's outcome.
His wife, who serves as his campaign chairman, faces the same charges and seven counts of perjury for allegedly signing fraudulent campaign finance reports from 1984 to 1989. She had been free on her own recognizance. But Nalley has ordered her held without bond if she surrenders or is arrested.
The most serious charge against the couple, theft, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Their trial is expected to last up to three weeks.