Joseph Buttafuoco admitted today what most of America had believed all along: that he had had an affair with Amy Fisher.
Dressed in a dark blue suit, a flamboyant floral tie and his signature black-and-white snakeskin cowboy boots, Mr. Buttafuoco pleaded guilty to one count of statutory rape for having sex with Miss Fisher when she was a 16-year-old high school student. In New York, the age of consent is 17.
Mr. Buttafuoco will face a maximum of six months in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 15.
Miss Fisher, who is serving serving 5 to 15 years at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for shooting Mr. Buttafuoco's wife, Mary Jo, had charged that she and Mr. Buttafuoco had had a long and passionate affair. Vigorous Denials
But Mr. Buttafuoco, 37, had vigorously denied it, both in court and in interviews on television and radio. As the case became fodder for an instant book and three made-for-television movies, his claim was viewed with increasing skepticism, and his last name became a guaranteed laugh line on late-night talk shows. But to the end, Mrs. Buttafuoco insisted that her husband was telling the truth.
Today, however, that facade dissolved.
Standing before District Court Judge Jack Mackston, Mr. Buttafuoco, as part of a plea bargain, pleaded guilty to the main charge in a 19-count indictment.
"I cannot accept your plea unless you are, in fact, guilty," the judge told Mr. Buttafuoco, who was swaying back and forth, his hands clenched tightly in front of him. "Please tell me."
Mr. Buttafuoco's face reddened. Glancing at his lawyer, he appeared to be struggling to summon courage. After a long pause, he raised his head and said, "On July 2, 1991, I had sexual relations with Amy Fisher at the Freeport Motel."
"Do you mean sexual intercourse?" the prosecutor, Fred Klein, asked.
"Yes, sir," Mr. Buttafuoco answered hesitantly. To Protect the Family
Afterward, the usually outspoken Mr. Buttafuoco was escorted from the courthouse by at least a dozen court officers. He did not stop to speak to reporters.
Dominic A. Barbara, Mr. Buttafuoco's lawyer, said his client agreed to the plea arrangement to protect his family. "There is a family involved here," he told reporters outside the courthouse. "Joseph, Mary Jo's father, in-laws, children. That's the man he is. He did what he had to do in that courtroom so everybody else's life could go on."
Mrs. Buttafuoco did not accompany her husband to court today.
"Last night, Mary Jo had a rough night," Mr. Barbara said. "She only has pain for her children."
Mr. Buttafuoco's plea came one month before the Nov. 15 deadline from the district attorney's office to submit a blood test. Prosecutors thought the test would prove Miss Fisher's claim that Mr. Buttafuoco had given her herpes. A physical examination was also ordered to support claims by Ms. Fisher that she could identify certain birthmarks on Mr. Buttafuoco's body.
Mr. Buttafuoco was charged with 6 counts of statutory rape, 12 counts of sodomy and one count of endangering the welfare of a child. The charges carried a maximum sentence of one and a third to four years in prison, with eligibility for parole after eight months.
In exchange for his guilty plea to one count of statutory rape, the county agreed to drop the 18 other charges. The one charge carries a maximum sentence of up to six months, a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years' probation. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 15. Miss Fisher is expected to speak at the sentencing. A Rare Charge
Statutory rape is a rarely used charge, and legal experts say it has largely become a resort for frustrated parents who have tried to end relationships between their daughters and men of whom the parents disapprove.
Last October, the Nassau County District Attorney, Denis Dillon, said he would not pursue charges against Mr. Buttafuoco, saying Miss Fisher would not make a credible witness. But in February, Mr. Dillon renewed his interest in the case after one of Mr. Buttafuoco's former employees told detectives that Mr. Buttafuoco had bragged about having sex with Miss Fisher when she was 16, officials said.