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Child-Death Witness Tells About Beating

Associated Press

A man accused of beating to death his adopted daughter admitted knocking the 6-year-old girl to the floor the night she was fatally injured, the man’s former lover testified Friday.

“I knocked her down and she didn’t want to get up again. This staring business had gotten to be too much for me,” Hedda Nussbaum said Joel Steinberg told her during a cocaine-smoking session a few hours after the alleged assault.

Nussbaum said Steinberg had angrily accused Lisa Steinberg in the past of practicing “a stare that was supposed to hypnotize the person stared at.”

Nussbaum, 46, is the key prosecution witness against Steinberg. The disbarred lawyer is accused of beating Lisa on Nov. 1, 1987, six years after she was brought as a newborn to live in their Greenwich Village apartment. She was taken to a hospital the next day and later died of a brain injury.

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Denies Hitting

Steinberg, charged with second-degree murder, has denied hitting Lisa. He says she fell unconscious after choking on food and that he caused the bruises on her chest and back while trying to revive her.

Charges against Nussbaum were dropped.

On her second day of testimony, Nussbaum said she once viewed Steinberg as a “godlike” figure and tried to protect him when he severely beat and brainwashed her.

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She testified that she was cut off for years from her family and friends. During one period, Steinberg forbade her to leave their apartment without permission; she lost her job as an editor at Random House after repeatedly missing work because of black eyes, she testified.

Nussbaum’s testimony buttressed the prosecution’s claim that she was intimidated, injured and virtually brainwashed by Steinberg, 47.

“I was extremely attached to him. I thought he was the most wonderful person I’d ever met and basically I worshiped him, literally. (I) thought he had supernatural powers . . . and healing and a lot of godlike powers,” she testified.

She said she has come to realize through therapy that none of that is true. She has spent the past year in physical and psychological therapy, including several operations.

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