Assistant U.S. Attorney Maury Epner scoffed at the contention that there was a secret deal. "I haven't researched the file, but I'm sure there's a very simple answer that completely blows his theory sky-high," he said. "By filing these motions, they're wasting my time and the court's time. They're like insects. They're real pains, and we can't seem to get rid of them. How many times will these guys keep filing motions?"
Joseph and Mildred Luskin disappeared in 1988 after they closed the business. They are fugitives, and have never paid a penny of the $10.9 million judgment against them, though more than $1 million of their property has been seized and sold at auction. Barry Franklin, Marie's divorce attorney, says he believes that they still control about $7.5 million in assets. Paul says he suspects his parents are broke. They are living outside the United States. He won't be more specific.
Marie has so far collected at least $2 million from the seized property and from suits against title companies that had permitted the sale of some of the Luskins' assets despite the court-ordered freeze. She also sold the house -- mortgage-free -- for $875,000. She lives in Hollywood. Paul has not seen his two daughters, now 14 and 9, since he was convicted in March 1988. He says he gets rare letters. The most recent letter came from his elder daughter after a Miami Herald story in June of this year reported Cohen's claim that Paul had had nothing to do with the attack on Marie.
"If this is true, Dad," he says his daughter wrote him, "then I want you to come home."
Susan, Paul's high-school sweetheart, lives in Hollywood and works for an insurance agency in North Miami Beach. Once a month she drives her Mercury Sable to the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Ga., about 100 miles north of Jacksonville, to see Paul. They play Scrabble and they talk about his fight for freedom. They are allowed a kiss when they meet, and a kiss a few hours later when she leaves. Susan says there are times when she gets depressed, other times when she can joke about the situation. She says if they ever make the movie, she wants to be played by Kathleen Turner.
In October 1989, Paul and Susan were married in a traditional Jewish ceremony at the federal prison in Marianna, Fla. She was 38; he was 41. She wore a V-neck, ivory lace dress -- "pretty enough to be a wedding dress, conservative enough for the guards to let me in" -- and high heels. Paul's white outfit was specially tailored and monogrammed by the staff of the prison's food service, where he worked. He wore a white yarmulke and new white leather Reeboks -- a gift from Susan. "He looked real nice," she says. The wedding was held outdoors. A rabbi drove over from Dothan, Ala. He brought kosher grape juice -- no wine is allowed in prison -- which they drank from a silver goblet. Susan's parents blessed the wedding.
"My parents would not have let me marry someone who had tried to kill his former wife," she says. On the evening they were married Paul had a florist take roses to Susan's hotel room. Flowers for Mrs. Luskin.
ARTHUR JAY HARRIS is a free-lance writer.