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Aisenberg lawyer reveals intent to sue

He contends authorities conspired to frame the couple in the disappearance of their infant daughter, Sabrina.

By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2002

He contends authorities conspired to frame the couple in the disappearance of their infant daughter, Sabrina.

TAMPA -- Barry Cohen, attorney for Steve and Marlene Aisenberg, has maintained all along that his clients had nothing to do with the disappearance of their 5-month-old daughter, Sabrina.

State and federal authorities conspired to frame the Aisenbergs while others looked the other way or just "went along with it," Cohen has said.

On Thursday, Cohen mailed "intent to sue" letters to the people he believes are responsible for "railroading" the Aisenbergs. The letters, a heads-up that a lawsuit will follow in about six months, are required before suing state agencies.

In the letters, Cohen named as possible defendants 16 current and former Sheriff's Office employees including Sheriff Cal Henderson, lead detectives Linda Burton and William Blake, and the monitors who listened to the Aisenbergs after authorities bugged their home.

Among others listed were lead federal prosecutors Steven Kunz and Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Hillsborough County Judge Eric Myers, who before becoming a judge signed off on the bugging as a state prosecutor.

Cohen also included the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Brevard/Seminole State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, who were asked to investigate the investigators after the case went awry. Wolfinger's report concluded that the investigation was severely botched, but it stopped short of leveling criminal charges. Some of those listed in the letters might not be named in the suit, Cohen said, but he wanted them all to have fair notice.

The Aisenbergs reported Sabrina missing from their Valrico home Nov. 24, 1997. Hillsborough investigators came to suspect the Aisenbergs and bugged their home. A grand jury indicted them in 1999 on charges of conspiracy and making false statements.

Prosecutors said the tapes contained incriminating statements. But the charges were dropped in 2001 after a judge recommended the tapes be suppressed. The judge said sheriff's detectives made up facts in getting permission for the bugs, and that tapes he listened to did not contain incriminating comments.

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