Original article no longer available
New York Daily News
by RICH SCHAPIRO and TRACY CONNOR, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Originally published on December 28, 2005
Locked up in Bellevue’s prison ward, accused Halloween sex attacker Peter Braunstein has been reduced to a pale, quivering wreck – who begs his mommy for new clothes.
“He was almost crying, his lips were trembling,” his mother, Angele Braunstein, told the Daily News exclusively after a 15-minute visit with her son yesterday.
“He is very overwhelmed. He is really emotional and he can’t really talk.
“He looked ill. He looked pale,” she said. “I knew Peter when he had zest for life. Now he doesn’t have anything.”
It was the first time she’d sat down with her only child since his flight from justice ended Dec. 16 with a flamboyant suicide attempt in Memphis.
Angele Braunstein, 71, said she let him know from the get-go that despite allegations he sexually tortured a Chelsea woman, she is standing behind him.
“You know what a mother is,” she told him – and he nodded.
“It broke my heart,” she said of seeing her son behind bars, dressed in jailhouse togs, on the verge of tears.
“I didn’t pay any attention to his outfit. I looked at his face and hugged him. He was highly emotional. He needs a lot of compassion.”
But Peter Braunstein had little to say even to his staunchest defender, asking only for a fresh set of clothing and urging his mom not to believe what’s been written about him.
“Don’t listen to the papers,” he told her. “They exaggerate so much.”
Braunstein is undergoing a psychiatric exam at Bellevue Hospital while awaiting a Jan. 5 arraignment on charges of kidnapping, sex abuse, robbery, burglary and arson.
Police describe him as a warped sadist who methodically plotted his perverted attack – but his mom still sees him as a troubled genius who simply snapped when he abruptly went off Prozac.
“He just lost it,” she quietly told The News while sitting in a cramped waiting room, a few feet from armed correction officers manning a metal detector.
“Months ago, he ran out of his medication, and he didn’t have any insurance. He didn’t tell me,” she said. “That’s what happened.”
She has even predicted the one-time Village Voice and Women’s Wear Daily scribe might try to kill himself in prison, and a judge ordered Braunstein put on a suicide watch last week.
His high-powered lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, is believed to be mulling an insanity defense. He asked the court to order a competency exam to determine whether his client can assist in his defense.
The 41-year-old suspect is accused of disguising himself as a firefighter on Halloween and setting small blazes in a Chelsea apartment building to get into a former co-worker’s home.
Once inside, he allegedly drugged her with chloroform and humiliated and sexually abused her for nearly 13 hours before fleeing with some of her clothing.
For seven weeks, he led cops on a cross-country cat-and-mouse chase that ended with a bloody showdown on the University of Memphis campus.
Cornered by a campus cop, Braunstein pulled a knife and stabbed himself in the neck, but failed to take his own life and was flown back to New York within days.