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    Aisenberg lawyers sue to get records

    The couple's lawyers think the state attorney has failed to turn over public records that could help their clients.

    By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 6, 2002

    TAMPA -- The lawyers for Steve and Marlene Aisenberg think Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober has failed to turn over public records that could benefit their clients.

    On Wednesday, the lawyers filed a lawsuit in state court in hopes that a judge will force Ober to release them.

    "We don't know exactly what is in the files," said attorney Stephen Romine. "But it seems obvious it's something they don't want us to see."

    State prosecutors compiled the records in question after the Aisenbergs' 5-month-old daughter, Sabrina, disappeared from their Valrico home in November 1997. Sabrina has never been found.

    Investigators suspected that the Aisenbergs had something to do with the disappearance, but state prosecutors never charged them with a crime.

    The couple, however, were charged in federal court with conspiracy and making false claims. The charges were dismissed last year after a federal judge harshly criticized the conduct of Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives.

    Romine said the state records could shine light on why state prosecutors declined to charge the Aisenbergs. The information could be pertinent to a lawsuit the Aisenbergs are preparing to file against the Sheriff's Office and other officials involved in the case.

    Romine said Ober might be reluctant to hand over the records because they contain information that would embarrass his law enforcement colleagues. In correspondence last year with Romine and the other Aisenberg attorneys, Ober's office said the records are not subject to the state's open records laws because law enforcement had an ongoing investigation into the case.

    In a more recent letter, Ober's office doesn't make that claim. Instead, it says it doesn't have the records, that another state attorney who investigated the detectives' actions still has them.

    State Attorney's Office spokeswoman Pam Bondi would not comment on the lawsuit, saying any response would occur in court.

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