Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Nozolino trial: Former Colorado Springs attorney felt 'threatened'

By Lance Benzel Updated: January 30, 2014 at 3:17 pm

The letter came addressed to employees of divorce lawyer John Ciccolella and relayed its promise of violence in big, block letters.

"Work for Cicolela (sic) and you are the next target," it warned. "If you think the fat man in the red Expedition or the skinny guy with the spoyler (sic) on his car can protect you, then you are taking your eyesight for granted."

Six months after Ciccolella was shot in the eye while working at his downtown law office, the handwritten note - posted June 5, 2002 - reanimated fears of reprisal among his law practice staff, according to the legal assistant who opened it.

Asked to examine it again nearly 12 years later, Rita Tosches on Wednesday took a deep breath and wiped away a tear after receiving a manila evidence envelope from a prosecutor.

Tosches, who spoke in a weary voice and paused often to collect herself, was among the witnesses called as prosecutors continued pressing their case against Bruce J. Nozolino, who is accused in four shootings authorities tie to a bitter divorce. Among her other recollections of that period was twice spotting Nozolino lingering outside the attorney's office - each time in a vehicle that moved slowly down an alley abutting Ciccolella's office.

She said she first saw Nozolino in November 2001 - between a shooting into Ciccolella's home and the shooting into his office - and again in June 2002, days after receiving the letter.

The letter's mention of a "fat man" and a "skinny guy" suggest that whoever wrote it kept a keen eye on things at the law office, 405 S. Cascade Ave., Ciccolella told a jury last week when addressing the same evidence.

Ciccolella identified the "fat man" as James Lily, a former Colorado Springs police official and personal friend who sometimes escorted Ciccolella to court proceedings in the wake of the shootings into his office and his home.

The "skinny guy" with the spoiler on his car was Ciccolella's son, Chad, then a high school student who worked part time with his father.

The testimony represented more circumstantial evidence suggesting involvement by Nozolino, who has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts including murder in a 2008 shooting in Colorado Springs.

Twelve days of testimony into what is expected to be a two-month trial, the prosecution has yet to provide physical evidence tying Nozolino to the crimes.

Earlier Wednesday, the jury heard continued testimony from Gregory Garland, a former deputy city attorney who befriended Nozolino in the late 1990s.

Garland told the jury he was forced to end his association with Nozolino under orders from his boss, then-City Attorney Patricia Kelly.

According to his testimony, Kelly had learned that Garland tipped off Nozolino that his picture had been hung on the walls at the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex and that Garland also advised him that he might be a suspect in an October 2001 shooting in the home of District Judge Gilbert Martinez.

Although he said he didn't think he had done anything wrong, Garland agreed to stop hanging around Nozolino for fear of losing his job, he said.

Garland, who said his memory was affected by a recent motorcycle crash, was also reminded of earlier statements to a police detective in which he said Nozolino had grown "obsessed" with his divorce to the point his company became "oppressive."

Afterward, Garland said he grew fearful that Nozolino would see him as part of "a conspiracy," referring to Nozolino's well-established suspicion that judges, lawyers and law enforcement officers were colluding against him in his divorce.

After years of not seeing Nozolino, he ran into him at a gun store in Colorado Springs in 2008 and Nozolino picked up where he had left off - now complaining that Ciccolella was "going out of his way" to revoke Nozolino's government security clearance.

Garland said he only wanted to leave but that every time he took a step backward, Nozolino advanced.

Although Nozolino issued no physical threats, something about his demeanor left Garland chilled, he told the jury.

"I just cannot tell you how sinister and uncomfortable that felt," he said. "At that time, I felt threatened. I was concerned for my safety."

Testimony is slated to continue at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

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