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    Delay in Aisenberg transcripts sought

    Prosecutors say they need time to decide on appealing a judge's ruling before grand jury transcripts are released.

    By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 5, 2003


    TAMPA -- Federal prosecutors want grand jury transcripts in the case of Steve and Marlene Aisenberg kept under wraps until they decide whether to file an appeal.

    Last week, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday ordered the government to pay $2.9-million toward the Aisenbergs' legal fees. The judge's order also directed the clerk of courts to release by Monday all the normally secret grand jury transcripts from the case.

    The order was another embarrassment for law enforcement in its botched effort to convict the Aisenbergs in the disappearance of their 5-month-old daughter, Sabrina.

    The prosecutors wrote in a motion filed late Monday that they need time before the transcripts are released to decide whether to appeal. The prosecutors said they need to coordinate with officials at the Solicitor General's Office in Washington, which will make the final decision on whether to appeal.

    Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, said an appeal would be due within 30 days from Merryday's ruling.

    "We are simply asking for more time to review the judge's order before the transcripts are released," Cole said.

    As of late Tuesday, Merryday had not said whether he would grant the stay.

    The case began in November 1997, when Sabrina went missing from the Aisenbergs' home in Valrico. She was never found.

    After a long investigation, the Aisenbergs were indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and making false statements. The case crumbled after a federal magistrate judge questioned the government's evidence and the way law enforcement went about collecting it.

    -- Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 226-3365 or brink@sptimes.com .

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