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New trial is considered in murder plot


U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz is considering a motion for a new trial for Paul Luskin, a Miami man convicted in Baltimore in 1988 in a murder-for-hire plot against his ex-wife.

Luskin, serving a 35-year sentence in the federal prison in Jesup, Ga., has asked Motz for a new trial based on a recent confession by Milton "Sonny" Cohen Jr. that defense lawyers say absolves Luskin of complicity in the plot.

Cohen, a Middle River man who was convicted as the hit man in the case, is serving a 50-year sentence at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa.

In a 104-page affidavit, Cohen describes how he and James Manley made up a story about Luskin being involved in a murder-for-hire plot against his former wife, Marie. Cohen states that he made up the story as a favor to James Liberto, the former owner of the now-defunct Palughi's Restaurant in Little Italy.

He said Liberto's brother, Joe, was passed over for a promotion by Luskin to serve as a general manager for Luskin's Hi-Fi, a South Florida retail chain that Paul Luskin's family owns. Paul Luskin is a nephew of Baltimore appliance retailer Jack Luskin, but the businesses are not connected.

James and Joe Liberto were also convicted in the murder-for-hire plot and are currently serving sentences in federal prisons.

Cohen said that he cased the plush Luskin mansion near Fort Lauderdale and robbed Marie Luskin after posing as a flower delivery man. Cohen said that during the robbery he struck Mrs. Luskin on the back of the head with a blunt instrument called a "black jack," contrary to testimony in the six-week trial in the winter of 1988 that stated Mrs. Luskin could have been shot at close range. The wound was superficial and Mrs. Luskin testified against her former husband and Cohen during the trial.

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