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    U.S. attorneys argue to lower Aisenbergs' fees

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 24, 2002

    TAMPA -- The hearing into how much the government should pay in legal fees to Steve and Marlene Aisenberg continued in federal court Wednesday with the federal prosecutors completing their arguments.

    The lawyers will take today off and return Friday, when the hearing is expected to wrap up. The Aisenbergs' legal team has asked for more than $7-million under the Hyde Amendment, a rarely used law that allows federal criminal defendants to collect attorneys' fees from the government if the case was frivolous, vexatious or brought in bad faith.

    The government attorneys have conceded that the Hyde Amendment applies to the case but have argued the figure should be much lower, perhaps as low as $250,000.

    The Aisenbergs' daughter Sabrina was reported missing from their Valrico home on Nov. 24, 1997. She has not been found. Nearly two years after she disappeared, a grand jury indicted the Aisenbergs on charges of conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors said tapes from bugging their home contained incriminating statements.

    But in a scathing report, a federal magistrate said sheriff's detectives made up evidence to get permission to bug the home. He said the tapes he listened to did not contain incriminating comments.

    Soon after, the charges against the Aisenbergs were dropped, and the Aisenbergs' legal team filed a motion citing the Hyde Amendment to collect legal fees.

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