Peter Braunstein has been notorious as the media writer who apparently went crazy and tortured and assaulted a former co-worker for 13 hours in her Chelsea apartment in 2005, gaining access to her home by setting a small fire in her building and posing as a firefighter. While serving a 20-year-sentence for the attack, Braunstein has been interviewed, offered his thoughts on current TV, and become friends with other notorious criminals. Now, Aaron Gell has published an e-book about Braunstein, featuring new insights, like how he has a young female friend who "wanted to impress me in a Manson Girl kind of way. She tried to come off as more fucked up than she actually was" and runs errands for him, like sending letters to magazine editors offering his criticisms which is a violation of his sentence.
Braunstein, who was found after a manhunt across the country when he tried to slit his throat at the University of Memphis (he was recognized by a student), reached out to Gell through his friend, who he nicknamed Salander, after Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" (the book's original Swedish title is "Men Who Hate Women"). Part of the e-book is excerpted in The Observer, and Braunstein, whose madness seemed partly motivated by the dog-eat-dog world of the NY media industry, is now dealing with the complex dynamics behind bars:
Indeed, as measured by the perverse standards that define prison life, it turns out Peter’s greatest transgression may have been appearing on America’s Most Wanted a total of five times while so many other reprobates with truly unspeakable offenses on their rap sheets never made the cut.
“I don’t even like to mention it, because guys are so competitive,” he said with a sigh. We were sitting at a wooden table in a spare meeting room. Peter wore a green prison jumpsuit resembling a mechanic’s uniform. His once-unruly hair was cut short, and there was little sign of scarring from the suicide attempt that brought an end to his outlaw spree.
Actually, if you squinted a bit, he looked like Billy Joel.
Peter went on. “They’ll be like, ‘I was almost on it.’ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. ‘Almost.’ Really? Does John Walsh email you when you’re almost on and say, ‘You were almost on my show’? No. He doesn’t do that. There’s no way you could almost be on it. It’s like ‘almost pregnant’ or ‘almost dead.’ No. You’re either on it or you’re not.”
At the far end of the table, a clean-cut, exceptionally muscled guard sat politely studying his hands in his lap and occasionally stifling a laugh.
“If I hear one more time, ‘You didn’t even rape her,’” Peter said. Then he leaned back and shook his head. “I mean, talk about ‘Damned if you did, damned if you didn’t.’”
the attack was random and part of a suicide quest. The victim, who eventually called 911 when Braunstein left, was so shaken by the attack that she told the 911 operator she wouldn't open the door to the cops, "I don't know. ... I don't trust anybody. The guy who was here had a police badge. He had a fire uniform. He had everything. I'm so scared."
Some proceeds from the e-book will go towards Safeharbor.org, the New York City’s leading service organization for victims of domestic violence. Braunstein also told Gell he wanted to spend his life in prison, "Like I really want to hit the streets again when I’m 65? Yeah, that’s a good life. In this economy. Fast forward to then, where you got like 27 percent unemployment and people are going to be hunting squirrels for food."