Aisenbergs awarded over botched case


Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 11:02 p.m.
TAMPA - A judge ordered the federal government Friday to pay $2.8 million to cover the legal fees of a couple who were once considered suspects in their baby's 1997 disappearance.
District Judge Steven Merryday awarded the money to former Hillsborough County residents Steven and Marlene Aisenberg to cover their legal fees from the botched criminal investigation into the disappearance of the their 5-month-old daughter, Sabrina. The federal government agreed to pay their fees last year.
The Aisenbergs' attorneys had asked for $7 million, but federal prosecutors argued that amount was three times the amount owed for reimbursement, even at a rate of $250 an hour.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Steve Cole said the order was being reviewed and he had no comment.
Defense attorney Todd Foster did not return a phone call Friday.
Foster had argued that the couple, who have since moved to Bethesda, Md., deserved a larger sum because of the egregious nature of the case.
Sabrina disappeared on Nov. 24, 1997, from the family's home in Valrico. She has never been found.
Soon afterward, Hillsborough County sheriff's investigators suspected the couple had abused Sabrina and received permission from a judge to put listening devices in the Aisenbergs' kitchen and bathroom. Two years later, a grand jury indicted the Aisenbergs on charges of conspiracy and making false statements.
A federal judge found the tapes mostly inaudible, and they were thrown out as evidence after a magistrate-judge said detectives lied to get permission to bug the Aisenberg home.

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