Burton N. "Burt" Pugach (born April 20, 1927) is a New York based lawyer who spent fourteen years in prison for hiring men to throw lye in the face of his former girlfriend and future wife, Linda Eleanor Riss (February 23, 1937 – January 22, 2013).
At the age of 16, Pugach graduated from Evander Childs High School. He later received a Bachelor of Business Administration from the City College of New York and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School where he graduated cum laude. After admission into the New York State bar, Burt and Herb Weitz built the law firm of Weitz and Pugach. The firm, specializing in negligence cases, became highly influential. The success, however, was short lived - on November 19, 1958, the Special Committee on Professional Conduct formally charged Weitz and Pugach for engaging in illegal activity relating to fee splitting.
First marriage / daughter
Pugach married Francine Rifkin on June 24, 1951 and they had their only child, daughter Caryn Brenda Pugach on July 21, 1954. Caryn Brenda Pugach was mentally disabled and died on April 7, 1995, at age 40.
In 1959, Pugach began an infamous affair with Linda Riss, a 21-year-old woman from the East Bronx. Upon discovering he had a wife and child, Riss broke off their relationship. Pugach threatened to kill or hurt Riss if she left him. "If I can't have you, no one else will have you, and when I get through with you, no one else will want you." Riss reported the matter to the New York Police Department to no avail. Upon hearing of her engagement to Larry Schwartz, Pugach hired three assailants to attack Riss, throwing lye in her face, leaving her blind in one eye (she lost her sight in the other eye during heart surgery) and permanently scarred. Pugach went to jail for 14 years, during which time he continually wrote to Riss. When he was released in 1974, Pugach and Riss resumed their relationship and married soon thereafter. In 1976 they co-wrote a book, A Very Different Love Story.
In 1997, Pugach was once again accused of threatening another woman with whom he was having an affair. Linda R. Pugach appeared at the trial as a character witness on behalf of her husband. Linda Riss Pugach died on January 22, 2013, of heart failure, at the age of 75.
In 2007, filmmaker Dan Klores produced the documentary Crazy Love about Burt and Linda Pugach.
- Fox, Margalit (January 23, 2013). "Linda Riss Pugach, Whose Life Was Ripped From Headlines, Dies at 75". New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Farnsworth, Ward and Grady, Mark F. Torts: Cases & Questions. Aspen Publishers. 2004. ISBN 978-0-7355-2704-1
- Stainback, Berry. A Very Different Love Story: Burt and Linda Pugach's Intimate Account of Their Triumph Over Tragedy. Morrow, 1976. ISBN 978-0-688-03089-6
- Article by Emanuel Levy
- For Worse and for Better: Documenting an Obsession article from The New York Times
- Crazy Love (movie)
- Official site for Crazy Love
- Burt and Linda Pugach: the story behind Crazy Love
- Riss v. New York, a lawsuit filed by Linda Riss against the New York City Police Department for failing to protect her