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Amy Fisher Trial: 1992 - Long Island Lolita, Hollywood Deals, "a Walking Stick Of Dynamite", Joey's Troubles Are Not Over

buttafuoco mary affair television

Defendant: Amy Fisher
Crimes Charged: Attempted murder, assault
Chief Defense Lawyer: Eric Naiburg
Chief Prosecutor: Fred Klein.
Judge: Marvin Goodman
Place: Long Island, New York
Date of Trial: September 24, 1992
Verdict: Guilty of assault
Sentence: 5-15 years imprisonment; released after 7 years

SIGNIFICANCE: The Amy Fisher/Joey Buttafuoco affair (she being a teenager at the time) showed the extent of tabloid newspapers' and television shows' power in capturing the public's attention and catapulting ordinary people into celebrityhood.

One sunny May afternoon in 1992, Mary Jo Buttafuoco found a teenaged girl ringing the doorbell of her suburban Massapequa, New York, home. The girl accused Buttafuoco's 36-year-old husband Joey of having an affair with her younger sister. Unimpressed by the story and a T-shirt the teenager offered as proof, Mary Jo Buttafuoco decided that the conversation was over and turned away. As she stepped back into the house, she suddenly fell with a bullet at the base of her skull.

The following year would be enlivened by an antic cavalcade of lawyers, tabloid reporters, Hollywood film makers and the participants themselves—all openly playing with the truth about why Mary Jo Buttafuoco was shot. Conflicting stories became a profitable commodity to be bought and sold in the form of newspapers, magazines, tell-all books, and television shows. By the time the justice system was finished with the affair, Americans would be fascinated or repelled by a story in which nearly all of the action took place out of the courtroom.

When Mary Jo Buttafuoco began to write a description of her assailant for the detectives clustered around her hospital bed, her husband, Joey, suddenly announced that he knew the identity of the attacker. He steered police toward the teenaged daughter of one his customers.

Police quickly arrested 17-year-old Amy Fisher, who claimed that she had been having a sexual affair with Joey Buttafuoco since she was 16 years old. She said she was obsessed with the auto-body mechanic and had gone to the Buttaffuoco home to confront his wife. When Buttafuoco's wife refused to take her seriously, Fisher angrily smacked Mary Jo in the head with a cheap handgun, causing it to accidentally discharge and fall apart.

Anyone who assumed that Fisher was merely a smitten teenager confused by the promises of an older lover got a rude shock a week after the shooting. In a secretly made videotape purchased by the tabloid television program A Current Affair, Fisher was seen negotiating terms for sex with a salesman in a motel bedroom. The videotape aired on national television the night before her bail hearing. What had been a sordid local story became an instant national sensation.

Calling her a prostitute who had stalked Mary Jo Buttafuoco for months, Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Fred Klein charged Fisher with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, and a host of firearms-related felonies. Klein asked for a record-breaking $2 million bail.

If Fisher were a call girl, replied her attorney, Eric Naiburg, then Joey Buttafuoco was a pimp who had introduced his client to prostitution by setting her up with work at an escort service. Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Marvin Goodman was not convinced by Naiburg's arguments that Fisher was a victim of Buttafuoco's manipulations. The judge agreed to the prosecutor's unprecedented $2 million bail request and sent Fisher off to jail to await trial.

Arizona v. Fulminante - Significance, Harmless Error And The Supreme Court, New Direction?, The Federal Bureau Of Investigation [next]

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