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Man who blinded wife acquitted of threatening to kill mistress

May 1, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Nearly 40 years after he paid thugs to blind the lover he later married, a 70-year-old man was acquitted of threatening another lover who dumped him.

A jury found Burton Pugach innocent of seven misdemeanor charges Wednesday. He was found guilty of a single violation _ second-degree harassment.

Pugach, a disbarred lawyer who defended himself, faces a maximum of 15 days in jail at his sentencing on May 8.

Pugach said he would appeal the conviction, but praised the jurors as ``honest people of integrity. They didn’t hold my prior record against me.″

The charges stemmed from a complaint made by a 42-year-old woman whose five-year affair with Pugach was conducted during his marriage to the woman he blinded. That mistress told police he sexually abused her, harassed her and threatened to make it ``1959 all over again″ after she dumped him in October for a younger man.

Pugach spent 12 years in prison for paying three men $2,000 to throw lye in the eyes of the former Linda Riss, his current wife and mistress in 1959. She had threatened to leave him.

Released from prison and divorced from his first wife, Pugach persuaded Miss Riss to marry him.

Mrs. Pugach, 60, expressionless behind dark glasses when the verdict was read, left the courtroom on her husband’s arm. She said that he was an adulterer, not a criminal.

``He was a naughty little boy and he was caught,″ Mrs. Pugach said. ``But do we try to throw him in prison for that?″

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