Anthony J. Cicoria, convicted of stealing more than $60,000 in campaign funds while serving on the Prince George's County Council, was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday by a judge who compared him to a common thief.

Meanwhile, his wife and co-defendant, Catherine Cicoria, who fled before their scheduled joint trial in October, emerged from hiding yesterday and was ordered jailed without bond. She told Judge Robert C. Nalley that she had been "scared to death" of facing a jury, and had spent "quite some time" in Mexico over the last 10 weeks.

She faces the same charges as her husband, plus seven counts of perjury for allegedly signing fraudulent campaign finance reports.

"What is tragic here -- and this is absolutely, categorically a tragedy -- is that there is absolutely no question, no doubt, that you have been a force for good in this community," Nalley told Anthony Cicoria, moments before he sentenced the former two-term Democratic council member to state prison, prompting anguished cries from a dozen supporters who had hoped for leniency.

"Please! Please!" Cicoria's 78-year-old mother shrieked, then doubled over screaming as friends reached to comfort her.

Others in the courtroom moaned and sobbed, clutching one another, as sheriff's deputies sought to restore calm. Catherine Cicoria rose in the front row, hands to her head. "No! No!" she screamed at the judge, and fell back sobbing. "But you can't do this to him! You can't! Son of a bitch! You might as well shoot him!"

Nalley said he took note of Cicoria's record of public service in deciding not to impose a longer sentence.

"You have helped a lot of needy people, and the void this {sentence} will create is going to be felt immediately," the judge said, referring to the popularity Cicoria enjoys in his inner-Beltway district, especially among elderly voters.

"But the issue here goes beyond how well you have done as a public servant," Nalley said, telling Cicoria he had "violated a public trust" by stealing $64,324 in contributions from his campaign fund in the 1980s. Referring to other, less prominent defendants he has sent to prison, Nalley added, "I don't know how I could explain anything less than a substantial sentence in this case to the tool thief and the embezzling bank clerk."

Cicoria, 48, a former trophy shop owner who endeared himself to voters in the Hyattsville area with an old-style brand of shoe-leather politics, was convicted Oct. 30 in Circuit Court of one count each of theft and conspiracy and three counts of filing false Maryland income tax returns.

He sat before Nalley yesterday in a wrinkled gray suit, sweating, with his collar unbuttoned and tie loosened. Defense attorney Robert Mance described him as "tremendously defeated" and an "absolutely broken person."

The jury's verdicts in October have "taken his career away from him, and that in itself is punishment," said Mance, who urged the judge to spare Cicoria a prison term by placing him on probation.

"I ask for mercy," Cicoria told Nalley. " . . . I have always respected the law."

But Nalley imposed a 10-year prison term, then suspended all but five years of the sentence and added five years of probation. Under Maryland law, Cicoria, a former state delegate who served on the council from 1982 until this year, will be precluded from seeking public office for at least a decade. His first parole hearing will come in about 15 months.

The judge also ordered Cicoria to repay nearly $36,000. Because his reelection fund no longer exists, the money, under Maryland law, must be given to the state Democratic Party, donated to charity or educational programs, or distributed among past campaign contributors.

Catherine Cicoria was among a half-dozen people who took turns asking Nalley not to order her husband to prison. "This man, believe me, already has served his sentence through the press and the publicity," she told the judge. "He's lost his dignity, his home, everything."

Anthony Cicoria's mother, Mary, implored Nalley: "Please, please, have mercy on him, for the sake of a mother's love."

Others told Nalley how Cicoria had worked with police to curb drug dealing in their neighborhoods, how he had found shelter for fire victims, helped an immigrant apply for citizenship, and guided his elderly constituents through the county bureaucracy to obtain vital services.

"No matter what the problem, no matter what the time, Mr. Cicoria is always there," said Scott Bowling, 19. "A man like that does not belong incarcerated with common criminals. He's done too much good for that."

Cicoria, a self-styled political maverick who seemed to take pleasure in bucking the county's Democratic establishment, was heavily favored to win a third term this year.

After his conviction, he threw his support to Takoma Park Mayor Stephen J. Del Giudice, who went on to win Cicoria's council seat as a write-in candidate in the Nov. 6 election.

Mance yesterday asked Nalley to allow Cicoria to remain free on $25,000 bond, pending the outcome of his appeal. But the judge refused.

Prosecutor Scott Nevin objected to the bond request, saying Cicoria had shown "contempt" for the judicial system. He noted that Cicoria had criticized Nalley in a letter to constituents during his trial, had failed to keep appointments with probation officers, and had shown up in court yesterday more than two hours late for his scheduled 9 a.m. sentencing.

Nevin also said investigators suspect that Cicoria, against Nalley's orders, left Maryland after his conviction to visit his fugitive wife in Mexico. Cicoria denied leaving the state.

After Cicoria had been led away, his wife, who was his campaign chairman, took his seat at the defense table. Nalley denied her request for bond and scheduled her trial for Feb. 18.