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Charges Dropped in Baby Case

February 22, 2001

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors moved to drop charges Wednesday against a couple accused of lying about the circumstances of their baby daughter’s disappearance.

The move came less than a week after a U.S. magistrate recommended that the secretly taped conversations that were used to build a case against Marlene and Steven Aisenberg be thrown out because the recordings were nearly unintelligible.

``In light of the court’s ruling, there is no longer a reasonable probability of conviction against the defendants,″ the U.S. Attorney’s office said in court papers. Prosecutors had no further comment.

The Aisenbergs’ lawyer, Barry Cohen, said at a news conference: ``I told you all years ago this was a frame-up.″

Steve Aisenberg, reached at his home in Bethesda, Md., called it ``a hollow victory. We’re excited, but that’s tempered by the fact that our daughter is still out there and she needs to come home.″

The Aisenbergs were charged in 1999 with misleading detectives about the 1997 disappearance of their daughter, Sabrina. The 5-month-old vanished from the couple’s suburban Tampa home and has never been found.

After the girl’s disappearance, investigators bugged the Aisenbergs’ home and captured what they said were incriminating remarks from the couple. Detectives alleged the Aisenbergs covered up their daughter’s death and blamed it on an intruder.

The Aisenbergs were charged with conspiracy and making false statements. They have denied involvement in Sabrina’s disappearance and have been not been charged with killing the girl.

Last week, U.S. Magistrate Mark Pizzo said some of the most damning statements attributed to the Aisenbergs could not even be heard on the recordings.

``It was a bad-faith investigation from the beginning. When they couldn’t find any evidence they tried to make it up, and they did make it up,″ Cohen said. He called for a criminal investigation of the two lead detectives on the case.

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