The jury in the trial of Prince George's County Council member Anthony J. Cicoria is expected to begin deliberating today after the defense rested its case without calling Cicoria to testify.
Cicoria, 50, a second-term Democrat from Hyattsville charged with stealing $64,324 from his campaign fund, heard 10 witness testify in his defense yesterday.
The prosecution, before resting its case last Thursday, had called 39 witnesses and introduced 273 exhibits in 10 days.
Cicoria's attorney, Robert Mance, would say only that it was "a tactical decision on our part" to begin and rest the defense's case relatively quickly, without his client testifying.
Mance said the principal thrust of his closing statement to the jury this morning will be that prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cicoria is guilty of one count each of felony theft and conspiracy, and three counts of filing false state income tax returns.
Cicoria, who faces token opposition in his reelection bid next month, declined to comment yesterday. The most serious charge against him, theft, is punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.
Most of the 10 witnesses called by Mance yesterday were former Cicoria campaign workers who said they attended campaign-related meetings in an office condominium Cicoria bought near Hyattsville in 1986.
The prosecution contends Cicoria bought the unit as a personal investment, set it up as a constituent-service office, then illegally used about $33,000 in campaign funds to make mortgage and tax payments.
Mance has argued that the payments were not illegal because the office was sometimes used for campaign activities.
Some of yesterday's defense witnesses were called as character references for Cicoria, and testified that they know him to be honest. Others testified that they saw Cicoria pay cash for restaurant breakfasts he sponsored for groups of elderly constituents.
The prosecution has alleged that as one of several schemes to steal campaign funds in the 1980s, Cicoria took money as reimbursement for expenses, such as restaurant breakfasts, that he never incurred.
Cicoria's wife and campaign chairman, Catherine, 52, was to have gone on trial with her husband, but failed to appear in court and is being sought by authorities.
The Maryland attorney general has said that Cicoria, if convicted, would be suspended from his current term upon sentencing.
But his absence from office could be short-lived, officials said. If Cicoria were convicted and sentenced, but allowed to remain free on bond during an appeal, he could not be prevented from taking office in January, provided he is reelected.