A former fashion writer was convicted Wednesday of charges that he sexually abused a woman for almost 13 hours after posing as a firefighter on Halloween to bluff his way into her Manhattan apartment.
A jury needed less than four hours to convict Peter Braunstein in a case that provided a daily window in the bizarre world of a man whose life seemed to grow ever more unstable after he lost his girlfriend and his job in the magazine business.
Braunstein, 43, was convicted of kidnapping, burglary, sex abuse and robbery charges. He was acquitted of an arson charge. He faces 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced.
Braunstein's lawyers did not dispute that he carried out the attack, but said he was so mentally ill that he was unable to form the intent to be held criminally responsible.
The trial provided an endless amount of strange testimony about Braunstein.
The jury heard of Braunstein's musings about sending the editor of Vogue magazine to a hell guarded by rats and hoping a police commando unit team would kill him to put him out of his misery. In one of his many rambling journal entries, he described wandering around Tennessee posing as a Katrina victim to get free meals and a place to crash. The jury also saw scans of Braunstein's brain, which the defense said was "broke" to the point that he could not possibly be convicted.
And then there was the attack on Halloween 2005. Braunstein was accused of setting off smoke bombs outside the woman's apartment while dressed as a firefighter and brandishing a BB gun. Once inside, he knocked the victim out with chloroform, tied her naked to a bed and molested her.
Victim says she was videotaped
The trial included graphic testimony from the victim, as she recalled Braunstein stripping her naked, putting stiletto heels on her feet, groping her and videotaping the encounter.
Braunstein became the city's most-wanted man after the attack, and he soon ended up in down-and-out neighborhoods in Tennessee and Ohio. He passed himself off as a hurricane victim while in Memphis, posing as a New Orleans man whose name he found on the Internet.
He expressed his fascination with the daily media coverage of him as a fugitive, including front-page tabloid stories and his appearance on "America's Most Wanted."
He was arrested Dec. 16, 2005, on the University of Memphis campus. He tried unsuccessfully to kill himself by stabbing himself in the neck as a campus policeman approached while pointing a gun at him.
Before being fired, he was a reporter at Fairchild Publications, parent of Women's Wear Daily and W magazine. His victim worked there too, but they barely knew each other.