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Aisenbergs' attorneys to get notes on tapes

A judge makes the notes available to the Aisenbergs' attorneys.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000

TAMPA -- A federal judge has ordered government prosecutors to hand over 325 pages of work notes made by FBI lab technicians who analyzed secretly taped conversations between Steven and Marlene Aisenberg after they reported their baby Sabrina missing.

The order by U.S. Magistrate Mark A. Pizzo, filed late Tuesday, was in response to arguments Monday by the Aisenbergs' defense attorneys, who suggested that the government's failure to disclose the contents of the work notes might mean FBI lab workers found the tapes inaudible or otherwise flawed.

At issue are 62 audio cassettes made by Hillsborough Sheriff's detectives investigating the disappearance of Sabrina, who was 5 months old when she was reported missing from her Brandon home by Marlene Aisenberg on Nov. 24, 1997. Investigators obtained court orders to bug the Aisenberg home after they turned up no evidence of an intruder and became suspicious of conflicting statments by Marlene Aisenberg.

Baby Sabrina never has been found. But the secret tapes provided the evidence to indict Steven and Marlene Aisenberg in September 1999 on federal charges of conspiracy and lying to authorities. Released with the indictments were transcripts of the tapes that prosecutors said proved the Aisenbergs had lied about Sabrina's disappearance.

After playing the tapes, defense attorneys Barry Cohen and Todd Foster disputed the evidence, disagreeing with some transcripts and arguing that many tapes are simply inaudible. Those arguments helped persuade federal judges to order a pair of hearings on whether the tapes should be admitted as evidence and whether the tapes are, in fact, audible.

The defense attorneys also wanted the government to turn over surveillance logs and documents detailing who came and went from the Aisenberg home during the secret taping. Pizzo rejected that request.

The government Wednesday asked for a 60-day postponement in the hearings to determine the tapes' admissibility and audibility.

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