Dominic Barbara, who once represented Joey Buttafuoco and Jessica Hahn, returned to court Thursday with a new high-profile client -- himself.
Barbara, 66, of Garden City, appeared at a Nassau courthouse to face a misdemeanor criminal contempt charge that he illegally sent a text message to an attorney at the law firm representing his ex-wife, Leslie Barbara.
He is accused of violating a protective order barring him from contacting her directly or indirectly. Barbara pleaded not guilty to the charge at his arraignment at First District Court in Hempstead. Judge Eric Bjorneby adjourned the case and ordered him to return to court Oct. 3
"Leslie has 1 hour to contact me or call me," Barbara messaged to the attorney, Frank Perrone, according to court records.
Barbara said outside court he contacted the attorney simply because he wanted to try to undo the terms of the agreement ending his marriage to Leslie Barbara, 47, on the grounds he was influenced at the time by substance abuse problems.
Barbara's arrest Wednesday by Garden City Police was the latest event in the couple's public split. In another throe of the breakup, Leslie Barbara, who also is a lawyer, was charged in 2008 with menacing after Dominic Barbara said she threw a plate of spaghetti at his head. Prosecutors later dropped those charges at Dominic Barbara's request.
Dominic Barbara, who also has represented Michael Lohan and the husband of Diane Schuler, who crashed on the Taconic State Parkway killing herself and seven others, was suspended from practicing law in early 2011 for inadequate staff supervision and billing mistakes. The suspension ends next month.
In that time, he says, he's gotten clean, lost weight, found Jesus and is getting remarried soon, in what will be his fourth marriage.
Thursday, as Barbara began to sit in one of the two front rows reserved for attorneys only, a court officer scolded him: "Sit in the third row."
"I did try about 130 misdemeanors and I lost one in 43 years, so maybe I'll represent myself this time," Barbara explained earlier.
Barbara had been in the courthouse for hours before the clerk finally called Case 68 on the calendar: People vs. Dominic Barbara. During the wait, he regaled anyone who would listen with nostalgia of his most infamous cases, glad-handed old colleagues and introduced himself to at least one young woman who wasn't exactly sure who he was.
"Remember Joey Buttafuoco?" Barbara asked her.
At the arraignment, prosecutor Marissa Meyer unsuccessfully asked Bjorneby to increase, to $5,000, the $500 bail Barbara had already paid.
"I have no doubt that you'll be here," Bjorneby, who signed new orders of protection, told Barbara, referring to his next court appearance.
Brandishing the orders, Barbara hoisted his fists in the air as he left the building. "Free at last! Free at last!" he said.
With Joseph Mallia