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Prosecutors: Don't reveal transcripts

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2003


TAMPA -- Federal prosecutors want grand jury testimony in the case of Steve and Marlene Aisenberg to remain sealed, despite a recent court order to open the records to the public by Monday.

Prosectors this week filed a motion in U.S. District Court seeking to keep the records under wraps.

The couple was charged in 1999 with lying about the disappearance of their 5-month-old daughter, Sabrina, in 1997. She has never been found.

But the case against the Aisenbergs crumbled last year under allegations of shoddy police work.

A federal judge in January ordered the government to pay $2.87-million to the couple to cover legal expenses. The court also ordered the government to open any unfiled grand jury transcripts by Monday.

But prosecutors this week argued, among other reasons, that keeping the records shut would not hurt the Aisenbergs and that "the public interest in grand jury secrecy outweighs any interest in immediate disclosure."

They also argued that "a disclosure of the transcripts at this stage will tell subjects of the (ongoing) investigation what the investigators have found and what they have not found."

"We're obviously concerned about the grand jury material being released," said Steve Cole, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman. "Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation. It's very clear that it is ongoing."

Attorneys for the Aisenbergs disagree.

In a motion filed less than 24 hours after prosecutors', they stated that "any allegation that there is an ongoing investigation in this matter is patently ridiculous and will not withstand scrutiny."

"We strenuously disagree that there is any investigation," said Todd Foster, a lead attorney for the couple. "It's over and done with."

Foster said the Aisenbergs want the files opened so that "the truth about the manner in which this case was investigated be revealed to the public, and that the misconduct of those responsible for this travesty be exposed," according to the motion.

Foster said the couple does not oppose a brief, temporary stay in order to fully respond to the government's motion.

Prosecutors have said they also plan to appeal the $2.87-million award given to the Aisenbergs.

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