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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2004

A 'rehabbed' Amy Fisher

HARDLY a soul doesn't remember with pity or disgust the one-time "Long Island Lolita," Amy Fisher. She was the screwed-up 16-year-old who more than a decade ago shot, but not fatally, the wife of her garage-mechanic lover, Joey Buttafuoco, a man more than twice her age. Her apparently successful transition to productive adulthood after seven years in prison is less known but worth knowing.

When she got out in 1999 her plan was to forever fly below the public radar. She has married an older man, a former police officer. She has a 3-year-old son and is five months pregnant. She doesn't hide from her past, but lives with it.

She writes a weekly newspaper column and has a TV host job in the offing. And she has just published a book, If I Knew Then, that rehashes her downfall with Buttafuoco, who pleaded guilty to statutory rape in connection with their affair.

Is she in it for the money? She told NBC's Matt Lauer on 20/20 recently that her book is self-published and she so far has earned the equivalent of 30 cents an hour for her effort, she's hardly getting rich.

Instead, she wants a public show of rehabilitation and a chance to set the record straight. The media got 90 percent of her story wrong, she says, and the true story is no worse than the false. She doesn't ask for forgiveness, but understanding, in the sense that her experience displays the psychic frailty of some teenage girls who have lousy relationships with their fathers and how easily predators can con them.

Her regrets about what she did extend not only to Mary Buttafuoco, who still suffers some paralysis from the wanton attack, but to her victim's children, as she imagines her son in the position she put the Buttafuoco children.

What's clear is that Amy Fisher today is not the Amy Fisher of 1992, though that Amy will never be forgotten. She now comes across as sane, honest, confident, strong, and willing to take the knocks she deserves, but no more.

Her snappy response to Mr. Lauer's observation that her marriage to a man many years her senior suggests she is still looking for a proper father tells it all. "You wouldn't ask Catherine Zeta-Jones that question," she parried, a reference to the actress' much older husband, Michael Douglas.

Probably true. It's evident we've not heard the last of the rehabbed Amy Fisher.

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