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Gag order may quiet Aisenberg attorneys

Prosecutors will seek to shut off talk outside the courtroom following defense comments to the media.

By LARRY DOUGHERTY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2000


TAMPA -- Federal prosecutors intend to seek a gag order barring attorneys and others involved in the Aisenberg case from making comments outside the courtroom.

Prosecutor Steve Kunz said the government was seeking the motion in response to recent comments Aisenberg defense attorneys made to WFLA AM-970 radio and the St. Petersburg Times.

Kunz made the comments Friday afternoon at a hastily called hearing in the case. In addition to the gag order, Kunz said he will seek sanctions against lead defense attorney Barry Cohen for the recent radio interview. Sanctions are a legal penalty imposed by a judge that can involve fines.

Cohen declined to comment Monday. "I will respond in writing," he said.

In seeking the gag order, Kunz cited a local rule of the federal courts that bars attorneys and others in pending criminal cases from making comments outside the courtroom. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Donna Bucella declined to elaborate Monday. "If we file one, it will say why," said the spokesman, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rhodes.

Steven and Marlene Aisenberg are awaiting trial on charges they lied to investigators about the 1997 disappearance of their 5-month-old daughter, Sabrina. She has not been found.

Also at Friday's hearing, the judge said he might have to decide whether prosecutors' secret tape recordings of the Aisenbergs are audible enough to be useful to the jury. The defense has long contended they are not.

The sound quality of the tapes is "something that may or may not have to be decided," said U.S. Magistrate Mark Pizzo.

-- Times staff writer Larry Dougherty can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or dougherty@sptimes.com.

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