Sentencing nears for lawyer in murder-for-hire plot
The suspended lawyer told a Niles restaurant her husband's credit was no good.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Trash-talking attorney Maridee L. Costanzo's violence went beyond a plot to kill her estranged husband. High on cocaine, she punched out her mother during a trip to Florida.
Information about the episode is contained in a sentencing memorandum filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Akron. Costanzo, who over 15 years earned a reputation as a tough attorney with a penchant for four-letter words, agrees with the government that 10 years in prison is an appropriate sentence for her murder-for-hire attempt.
Costanzo, 47, has been in custody in an Akron-area jail since her arrest in April. The suspended Warren lawyer, a candidate for the 17th District congressional seat in 2002, pleaded guilty and will be sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr.
The sentencing memorandum filed by Matthew B. Kall and Ann C. Rowland, assistant U.S. attorneys, outlines Costanzo's plan to have her husband, Warren attorney Roger Bauer, killed during a trip in May to Florida with his girlfriend. The plot extended to the girlfriend, if necessary.
The sentencing document also discusses Costanzo's mental state, drug use -- cocaine and OxyContin painkillers -- and the attack on her mother during a car trip to Florida in November 2004. An eyewitness to the attack who testified before a federal grand jury relayed the facts.
The witness said Costanzo used cocaine during the trip and became angry with her mother, who had made a comment criticizing her daughter's new car. Costanzo threw a beverage container at her mother and then started swinging her fists.
"Costanzo punched her mother in the eye and knocked off her mother's glasses," the government said.
The event was corroborated by this passage in one of Costanzo's diaries obtained by the FBI:
"I physically beat her, yes I did, and you know I feel a little bad because she's so pathetic, but a person can only take so much. I gave her a black eye, threw an entire bottle of tea on her. At one point I left her and that [expletive] pig Geo on the side of 95 in the dead of nite (sic). I did turn around + get them."
When they reached Florida, police were sent to the place Costanzo and her mother were staying because of another altercation, the government said.
The plot to kill Bauer came to light in March when William D. Cindea, 56, of Warren told what he knew to the FBI and agreed to wear a wire to record conversations he had with Costanzo. Cindea said Costanzo tried to hire him to kill Bauer or find someone else to do it.
Cindea's cooperation emerged after he and Costanzo were arrested at 12:30 a.m. March 19 by Howland police during a routine traffic stop. Cindea, a convicted felon prohibited from being around firearms, didn't have a valid license and there were two loaded guns in the car -- one tucked in Costanzo's pants, police said.
Earlier that night, Cindea had driven Costanzo around looking for Bauer because she wanted to kill him. She'd already broken windows at her husband's house.
When they didn't find Bauer at home, they drove to Alberini's Restaurant on U.S. Route 422 and saw Bauer's car parked in the lot. Costanzo, through cell phone calls made to Bauer by Cindea, concluded that her husband was not at the restaurant but with his girlfriend in Newton Falls and wanted to go there.
Costanzo, on the drive away from the restaurant, said she wanted to go back and slash the tires on her husband's car. Cindea turned around but they spotted a cruiser and left again.
That's when Howland police stopped them as they drove on 422.
"Throughout the evening, Cindea tried to talk [Costanzo] out of killing Bauer," the government said. Had it not been for his efforts and the "fortuitous arrest" by Howland police, Costanzo could have succeeded in killing her husband and his girlfriend, the government said.
After the murder plot was revealed, Bauer told the FBI that his wife had been harassing him for several months and that her behavior was "very erratic."
Bauer told the FBI he believes Costanzo vandalized his girlfriend's car by putting sugar in the gas tank while the car was parked at his house. The damage cost $1,500 to repair.
A waiter at Alberini's told Bauer that Costanzo tried to convince the restaurant that Bauer's credit cards had all been canceled and said the eatery should throw him out, the government said.
Federal prosecutors said Costanzo promised Cindea a share in her marital assets and offered to pay a hitman $10,000 if Cindea had to find someone else to kill Bauer. Cindea told the FBI he had been supplying Costanzo with OxyContin and powdered cocaine.
Cindea told the FBI that Costanzo wanted Bauer dead because he cheated on her, caused her problems with the IRS and took business away from her.
In April, Cindea told Costanzo he'd found a hitman in Pennsylvania for $4,000. She gave Cindea a down payment of $1,100.
Bauer's attorney is expected to make a statement at sentencing on his client's behalf. Bauer's girlfriend also submitted a victim impact statement for the judge to consider.
As of Monday, two letters had been sent to Judge Dowd on Costanzo's behalf -- from Warren Coppin of North Bloomfield, Ohio, her first client, and longtime Youngstown defense lawyer Don L. Hanni Jr.
Hanni's letter said he was aware that Costanzo was a drug addict. He described her as a generous person who likely did more work without charge than any other Trumbull lawyer.
"On the darker side, if I ever met anyone who had a propensity for letting her crocodile mouth get her hummingbird ass into trouble, it's Maridee," Hanni wrote. "While she had the reputation of being a yeoman defense lawyer who zealously represented her clients, she also had the reputation of being more than just a little crazy."
Judge Dowd also has Costanzo's psychological evaluation done by Dr. James R. Eisenberg to consider at sentencing. The report does not suggest that her problems -- bipolar, borderline personality disorder and opiate dependence -- contributed to the murder plot, the government said.
Cindea, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of a weapon. He will be sentenced in September.
Costanzo has charges of carrying a concealed weapon, obstruction of justice and evidence tampering pending in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court from the March traffic stop. Federal prosecutors said it is their understanding that any sentence would run concurrent with the time imposed by Judge Dowd.