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Aisenberg details released


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2000

TAMPA -- Marlene Aisenberg failed a polygraph test given by sheriff's investigators the day after she reported her 5-month-old daughter missing in 1997, according to papers prosecutors filed in federal court Tuesday.

The court filing contradicts public claims Marlene Aisenberg made about her test results shortly after Sabrina's disappearance.

Confirmation of the failed polygraph was contained in a blistering denial by prosecutors that they had committed misconduct in obtaining an indictment of Aisenberg and her husband, Steven.

The couple are charged with lying about the disappearance of their daughter, Sabrina, who has never been found.

The Aisenbergs claim an intruder took the child from their Brandon home. Prosecutors think the Aisenbergs know what happened to the child.

In a lengthy aresponse, prosecutors rejected defense attorneys' claims that they manipulated the grand jury and leaked information.

If anyone was leaking, the prosecutors argued, it was the Aisenberg family, and a former television reporter retained by the Aisenbergs' defense lawyers to coordinate media coverage. Their goal was to win more sympathetic coverage for the Aisenbergs, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors offered the assistance of U.S. marshals to spirit the Aisenbergs through a back door of the old federal courthouse to minimize press coverage of their 1998 appearance before a grand jury, prosecutors wrote. Lead defense lawyer Barry Cohen rejected the offer, and instead "chose to parade the defendants before the media."

"Because attorney Cohen caused the defendants to become media figures and injected himself into the public arena in an effort to engender public sympathy for the defendants and public ire for law enforcement, he cannot now complain about extensive publicity," the prosecutors' response stated. It called Cohen's charges of government misconduct "an assortment of specious allegations" that failed to justify dismissal of the charges.

Reached for comment late Tuesday, Cohen said, "Pay close attention to the hearings and the facts as they come out. That's what will be more telling."

-- Larry Dougherty can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or

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