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Tracking down the latest in the Braunstein case

N.Y. man accused of sexual assault on Halloween believed to be in Ohio

There are new details in the search for the man suspected in the Halloween sex assault on a New York woman that lasted for almost 13 hours. 

Authorities fear he could be targeting his next victim. 

On Halloween, a 34-year-old woman opened her apartment door for someone she thought was a New York City firefighter.  Police say it was 41-year-old freelance writer Peter Braunstein dressed as a firefighter who chloroformed then assaulted her, verbally torturing her with intimate details about her life, tying her up, stripping her naked, forcing her to wear nothing but expensive shoes. 

Police have tracked Braunstein to Cleveland where they say he's been in strip clubs and bars, using aliases and posing as a movie producer and retired cop. 

On Monday, Jon Leiberman from the program "America's Most Wanted," and Lt. Tom Stacho from the Cleveland Police Department joined MSNBC's Dan Abrams on 'The Abrams Report,' to talk about the latest in the case.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAN ABRAMS: All right, Jon, let me start with you.  Look, you guys were the ones to uncover a lot of the details here.  Take us through what we know. 

JON LEIBERMAN, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED":  Yes, well I'll tell you, Dan, as John Walsh likes to say, the world is becoming a much smaller place for Peter Braunstein and that's because of our millions of viewers and the dozens of tipsters who actually called in.  What we found out over last week was this.  That Peter Braunstein was tracked from New York to Cleveland. 

He took a Greyhound bus there.  He slept at a $30-a-night motel for four nights.  Cops say he was hanging out in the bars in the evening.  He put an ad in the Cleveland newspaper, Dan that said he wanted a driver, said he was a tourist in town.  And we know from our tipsters and from cops that a number of drivers responded to his ad.

One of them he hired and he told them to go to a number of strip clubs around Cleveland and that's where the important point here is, Dan, and that is that according to our tipsters and the cops, Braunstein had actually targeted another victim at one of these strip clubs.  Luckily he hasn't been able to strike again.  But make no mistake about it, this is a dangerous guy that we need to get off the streets. 

ABRAMS:  What does that mean, targeted another victim? 

LEIBERMAN:  Well we can't go into all of the specifics for investigative reasons, but I can tell you this, he actually had eyeballed a couple of strippers at a particular strip club and indicated to people around him that those were the ones that he wished to go home with, if you will.  And there are some other details as well.  But police very much believe this guy could be armed.  He's definitely dangerous.  He has a history of mental illness and paranoia and a lot of drug use, so this is a dangerous guy. 

ABRAMS:  But Jon, how do we know that these tips are more credible, for example, than the ones in New York?  I mean there was that guy who owned the coffee shop who was saying I am convinced I saw him in Brooklyn recently.  It sounds like if everything you've got is right that he couldn't have been in Brooklyn. 

LEIBERMAN:  Yes, police believe now at this point that those sightings in New York were just that.  They were bogus sightings and the tips out of Cleveland were credible because police on the ground there, the U.S.  Marshals and the NYPD detectives on the ground actually went to these motels, they showed photos of Braunstein.  They got the receipts from the motel, from the bar, they saw he was using different names, very similar to Peter Braunstein.  He used names like Peter Grant, Peter Brown, Peter Bronson, and so they were able to piece together that exactly he was definitely in Cleveland and then around November 12 he took a bus over to Columbus, Ohio, and now the search is on in the Midwest.
ABRAMS:  Lieutenant, are you convinced that he was at least at one time in Cleveland?

LT. TOM STACHO, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPT.:  It sounds like based on the information that we did receive from NYPD and from the U.S.  Marshal Service that he was here in Cleveland.  Currently we're evaluating the number of tips that came in, working in a cooperative effort with NYPD detectives and the U.S. Marshal Service Fugitive Unit trying to track this guy down. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think based on the tips you are getting that he's still in Cleveland? 

STACHO:  It's impossible to tell right now.  Again, like I said, we are evaluating those tips.  I can tell you though that our fugitive unit and the U.S. Marshal Service Fugitive Unit are focused, a relentless group.  If he's here they're going to track him down.  They're going to find him. 

ABRAMS:  Jon, any indication that he's reached out to any friends?  I mean there was discussion that he had some friends in the area. 

LEIBERMAN:  There are no indications that he reached out to anybody in Cleveland.  We do believe that he's tried to reach out to some people back in New York City via phones that he's using, disposable cell phones and things like that.  But really at this point, cops are stumped as to why he chose Cleveland as the place to go to, but I'll echo what the lieutenant said.  I mean there are dozens of officers and agents and marshals on the ground and they are going to track this guy down. 

ABRAMS:  (Speaking of the) ad you were talking about a moment ago, Jon.  "Driver wanted to chauffeur tourist around Cleveland starting immediately, $11 per hour, plus gas and expenses.  Needs your own transportation and valid license.  Must be available evenings.  Contact Peter Grant."  You guys were the source of that information.  How are you convinced that is in fact Peter Braunstein? 

LEIBERMAN:  Police are convinced based on that phone number there, based on corroborating stories that police on the ground have gotten.  We passed on the tips to police.  They corroborated it on the ground in Cleveland.  And they are 100 percent sure that that ad was placed by Peter Braunstein in Cleveland.  Braunstein has a bunch of cash on him.  That's how he's been paying for these ads.  That's how he's been paying for the motels where he's staying and for his drinks in these bars and things of that sort.  They are convinced that that indeed was placed by Peter Braunstein.

ABRAMS:  And finally, Jon, premeditation, is there the sense that he was ready to flee and had an escape plan hatched? 

LEIBERMAN:  Absolutely.  Cops say this was well scripted from the get-go.  He went on eBay about a month or two ago before the attack.  He allegedly bought fire pants on eBay and potassium nitrate and the list goes on and on.  An old police badge on eBay.  They believe he scripted this whole thing out.

He went to a hotel shortly after the Halloween night attack in New York and then he took a train up to New Jersey and a bus out to Cleveland.  They believe all of this pretty much is scripted out.  Peter Braunstein wanted to be the star in his own episode, in his own play, and that's exactly what he's doing here. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.