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TV job awaits child-killer's release

Schweddy

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Yahoo News

The story is shocking, still. A 6-year-old girl, killed by blows delivered by the man who raised her. The man's girlfriend, herself a victim of his abuse, testifying that the couple smoked cocaine while the child lay unconscious on a bathroom floor.

It has been nearly 17 years since young Lisa Steinberg, illegally adopted by Joel Steinberg and his live-in girlfriend, Hedda Nussbaum, died of brain injuries from the beating.

Now, Steinberg is about to be released from prison, even though he was denied parole five times - most recently in January. And he has a job lined up on a local cable TV show called New York Confidential.

There have been other notorious cases of child abuse since Lisa Steinberg's death in 1987, but few have been as sensational. The story transfixed New York City and the nation, showed graphically that child abuse crossed class lines and shed light on the issue of domestic violence.

Steinberg was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for Lisa's death and sentenced to 81/3 to 25 years. He is scheduled to leave Southport Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison near Elmira, on June 30. New York state law allows inmates with a record of good behavior to be released after serving two-thirds of their maximum sentence.

Currently, the only condition on his release is that he have a place to live, says Scott Steinhardt, spokesman for the state's Division of Parole.

Focused attention on abuse

The Steinberg case "riveted public attention on the need to improve child-safety standards and highlighted that there were serious deficiencies in the city's child-welfare system, says Jennifer March-Joly of the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, a child-advocacy organization.

Yet it wasn't until years later, after the beating death of another 6-year-old girl, that New York City initiated an effort to overhaul its child-welfare system to better protect children.

In that case, Elisa Izquierdo had been returned to the custody of her mother, Awilda Lopez, despite concerns of relatives and school staff who feared that Lopez was abusing her. Social workers were supposed to be keeping watch. Lopez knocked the child into a wall in November 1995, killing her.

The Steinberg case began in 1981, when Steinberg, a lawyer, was paid by Lisa's birth mother to find an adoptive home for her. He brought Lisa home, but he and Nussbaum never legally adopted the girl. In November 1987, paramedics were called to the couple's apartment in Greenwich Village and took the unconscious girl to the hospital. Lisa died four days later.

Nussbaum, who endured years of physical abuse from Steinberg, testified that Steinberg told her he had hit Lisa because she was staring at him. And it was revealed during the trial that 12 hours passed before he called for help.

As Steinberg prepares to leave prison, many people central to the case are unwilling to speak about his release. Nussbaum, reached at a women's shelter where she now works, said, "I'm not giving any more interviews."

Steinberg's attorney, Darnay Hoffman, did not return several phone calls. Lisa's birth mother, Michele Launders, who was 19 when she paid Steinberg $500 to find a home for her baby and who sued him after the girl's death, also did not want to comment, said her lawyer, Wayne Schaefer.

From prison to cable TV

During the years that he was inmate No. 89A2941, Steinberg was disciplined a handful of times for such infractions as violating a smoking policy and refusing a direct order, says Linda Foglia, spokeswoman for New York's State Department of Correctional Services. He studied drafting and handicrafts and was a porter in the gym, she said. And since May 1991, the disbarred attorney has been assigned to the prison's law library, where he is a paralegal assistant.

After he's released, Steinberg will earn $250 a week as an intern for New York Confidential, a tabloid-style cable show that has the infamous report on the scandalous. "We're interested in a lot of different people, scandalous people ... who can do stories and have a totally different view on everything," show spokesman James Edstrom says. "There's no guarantee that he will work out. He'll start as an intern, and if he can handle it, he may end up being a reporter along with other people."

Edstrom says the program is also interested in getting Bernhard Goetz on the show. Goetz became a symbol of vigilantism in 1984, after he shot four young men he thought were going to rob him on a New York subway. Goetz was sentenced to a year in jail for possessing an unlicensed gun.

At least part of Steinberg's wages may go to pay for his crime. Launders, Lisa's biological mother, was awarded $15 million in damages in September 2003 from a civil lawsuit she originally filed against Steinberg, Nussbaum and various city agencies. The city settled without admitting any wrongdoing in 1999 and paid $985,000.

"The last information we had was he was going to work as some kind of a TV journalist," says Schaefer, Launders' lawyer. "We'll be monitoring that situation, and to the effect we can take garnishment, we, of course, will."
 

KD5DBL

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The Liberal Puke said:
He paid for his crime, leave him alone now. The system is set up for people like him to have a second chance. The system is working! Let's just see what he comes out to be...
OK... so you would have no problems, none at all, with him living next door to you and your family (got kids?)?
 
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He's a reformed man, I'd welcome him as my next door neighbor, as a matter of fact I'd even ask him to babysit my 3 kids overnight for me if he can. You may not trust him but society does and will forget about his past. As long as he can stay away from trouble; by trouble I mean people who would judge him again and again for a crime he's already paid for, he'll be alright.
 

Schweddy

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Your right. That is what incarsaration is for. To correct and pay debt to society.

But, this man is getting this job BECAUSE he is a murderer. Which I totally disagree.

I would not trust this man with my kids until he had proven himself. That would take awhile - purhaps years. Society will indeed forget about his crime. But, if you are smart, you will not play catch with a double edged sword.
 
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