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Aisenbergs' attorneys want notes on tapes

The defense suggests federal authorities might have known the tapes were flawed even as they sought to indict the couple.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000


TAMPA -- Attorneys for Steven and Marlene Aisenberg want to know what an FBI analyst wrote in 325 pages of notes while reviewing secretly taped conversations of the couple.

The lawyers hope the FBI notes bolster their contention that the tapes -- key evidence implicating the Aisenbergs in an alleged plot to conceal their missing daughter's fate -- are inaudible. In papers filed with the court, and in courtroom arguments Monday, the defense has suggested federal authorities may have known the tapes were flawed even as they sought to indict the couple last year.

"It's very unusual that the government would not want to disclose what the FBI did," Aisenberg attorney Todd Foster said at the Monday hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo.

The Aisenbergs, who have denied wrongdoing, are charged with conspiracy and lying to investigators. The case began when they reported their 5-month-old girl, Sabrina, missing from their Brandon home in November 1997. In the days that followed, investigators bugged their home and claim to have recorded the couple discussing the child's death.

At Monday's hearing, the defense asked the judge to compel the government to release the FBI notes, along with police logs of who entered and left the Aisenberg home while it was being bugged.

Further, the defense asked for "work copy" tapes (presumably even less audible than the originals under attack) used by detectives when they sought a judge's permission to extend the audio surveillance of the Aisenbergs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachelle Bedke told the judge the FBI analyst attempted to enhance the tapes by eliminating background noise but did not draft a report on whether they were audible.

The defense wants the evidence as it prepares for court hearings on whether the tapes are intelligible, and whether Hillsborough detectives lied or misrepresented facts to a circuit judge when they applied for permission to continue the electronic eavesdropping.

Pizzo ordered the government to turn over the tapes by Nov. 6 so a defense expert could review them. The judge said he would review the matter of the FBI notes and the police logs.

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