A fashion writer who sexually abused his captive co-worker for hours was an "arrogant, jealous and vindictive man" who wanted to send an angry message to the people who spurned him, a prosecutor said in closing arguments at his trial Tuesday.
Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal said a conniving Peter Braunstein, whose lawyers claim he's mentally ill, ignited smoke bombs on Halloween night 2005 while wearing firefighter gear that he bought on the Internet.
Then, she said, Braunstein bluffed his way into a former co-worker's apartment and knocked her out with chloroform, tied her naked to a bed and sexually abused her for nearly 13 hours.
"He meticulously planned and executed this case down to the last detail, and not only the crime, but his flight afterward," Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal's assertions follow more than three weeks of testimony that included assertions that Braunstein lived in a strange world and grew more unstable after he lost his girlfriend and job in the fashion industry.
Lawyer: His 'brain broke'
Braunstein, 43, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, burglary, sex abuse and robbery charges, although his lawyers concede he attacked the woman. They say their client, who could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted, is mentally ill and not criminally responsible for the attack.
Robert Gottlieb, one of Braunstein's lawyers, told the jury his client's mental illness that crippled his brain and left him unable to form the intent or the conscious objective to commit the crimes charged.
Gottlieb tried over the past three weeks to show that his client's "brain broke" in a way that is consistent with that of a person with paranoid schizophrenia.
Gottlieb said Braunstein heard voices and had delusions, which are symptoms of schizophrenia, while prosecution experts — whom he called "hired guns" — said the defendant had a personality disorder and other less severe mental ailments.
"It doesn't matter what you may choose to call it," Gottlieb said. "Call it an orange, or a banana. Whatever you call it, Mr. Braunstein was undeniably mentally ill on Oct. 31, 2005."
Braunstein was captured by police Dec. 16, 2005, at the University of Memphis. He stabbed himself in the neck several times in an apparent suicide attempt as officers approached and arrested him.
Prosecutor argues there was intent
"We are not arguing that the defendant is the picture of mental health," the prosecutor said. "We all agree that is clearly not the case. (The question is) did the defendant form the intent to commit the crimes charged?"
Before being fired, Braunstein worked as a reporter at Fairchild Publications, parent of Women's Wear Daily and W magazine. His victim was a co-worker, though they barely knew each other.
Rosenthal said the victim was a stand-in for an ex-girlfriend and other people Braunstein disliked.