The acquittal of John Wayne Bobbitt is bad news for Lorena Bobbitt and her upcoming trial on charges that she cut off her husband's penis, lawyers said yesterday, but it's good news for him and his prospects for making money off his story.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers agree that Lorena Bobbitt was not a strong witness at the trial, which focused international media attention on the Manassas courthouse. Her testimony this week was halting and tearful, and she was unable to persuade a jury that her husband had raped her before she pulled back the bed sheets and sliced off his penis June 23. The two have since filed for divorce.

"If she was my client, I would be begging for a misdemeanor plea," said Susan Fain, who teaches law at American University. "I would not be very happy about the prospect of putting her before a jury."

In the unusual back-to-back felony trials -- where the alleged victim in one becomes the accused in the next -- Lorena Bobbitt, who was the state's star witness against her husband, will be a defendent in 16 days. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of malicious wounding.

Equally unusual is the fact that Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert, who prosecuted John Bobbitt, will prosecute Lorena Bobbitt.

Though Lorena Bobbitt, 24, who returned to her job as a manicurist yesterday, faced an uncertain legal future, John Bobbitt, 26, a former bar bouncer, appeared headed for media stardom. His lawyer, Greg Murphy, did a series of early morning talk shows yesterday. And Paul Erickson, his media attorney, said that by yesterday morning, less than 20 hours after his client's acquittal, 63 reporters and entertainment companies had called wanting the ex-Marine's story.

John Bobbitt is scheduled to join radio personality Howard Stern Nov. 22, for a nationwide show to raise funds to cover his medical and other expenses, Erickson said. Bobbitt has thou- sands of dollars in bills after a 9 1/2-hour operation in which two surgeons reattached his penis.

The organ had been retrieved from a Prince William County field where his wife had tossed it as she fled the couple's Manassas apartment.

Erickson said the acquittal and the fact that John Bobbitt never told his story until he appeared on the stand last Tuesday has "maximized his earning potential."

Lorena Bobbitt already has granted interviews for ABC's 20/20 and for Vanity Fair. No one fromher publicity firm, California-based Paradise Entertainment, responded to phone calls and messages yesterday.

A tearful Lorena Bobbitt waved off a reporter at her job yesterday morning saying, "No comment."

She immigrated here from Venezuela seven years ago, and if convicted of malicious wounding, a felony, she could face deportation since she is not a citizen, immigration officials said.

James Lowe, her defense lawyer, declined to discuss the idea of a plea bargain, and he played down the effect of John Bobbitt's acquittal on his client's future.

He said he will argue in her defense that years of abuse drove her to temporary insanity -- her mental state when she mutilated her husband.

"Based on media reports, the jury {in this week's trial} was concerned with a lack of corroboration," Lowe said. "As to the issue of long-term, egregious spousal abuse, there will be so much corroboration, you'll be bored to tears hearing it."

Unlike this week's trial, in which John Bobbitt denied he had raped his wife, there is no dispute about the act that led to charges against Lorena Bobbitt. She has told authorities that she "pulled back the sheets" and cut off her sleeping husband's penis.

The next trial will focus on whether Lorena Bobbitt used the knife with malice, as prosecutors allege, or because she had an irresistible impulse triggered by temporary insanity, as Lowe argues. The trial will rely heavily on testimony from psychiatrists on both sides, Lowe said yesterday.

Ebert said yesterday he has no problem prosecuting both Bobbitts or questioning either as a witness.

It may be uncomfortable, he said, if Bobbitt denies abusing his wife, because "I personally believe he did rape her.

"Part of what he says is true. Part of what he says is untrue," Ebert said.

He said Lorena Bobbitt's demeanor on the stand probably stemmed from the fact that "she committed a crime on her own" and that he never developed a rapport with her. "She always seemed hostile and frightened of me," he said.

While Ebert and Lowe contemplated Lorena Bobbitt's upcoming trial, her husband returned home with family members to Niagara Falls yesterday, Erickson said.

"He's going to take a couple of days and recuperate," Erickson said.

"John is starting his life again. He has to pick a place to live and has to decide what kind of job he wants."