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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fake Fireman Rape Case: Peter Braunstein Prime Suspect

Peter Braunstein, age 41, was a journalist, aspiring playwright, and a former writer at the Village Voice and Women's Wear Daily. He is now the prime suspect in a sadistic 13-hour Halloween sex attack on a 34 year-old women in a Chelsea apartment. Reports say he outlined the sexual assault nearly a year ago on his home computer. If you have some time to kill you can follow the links below and see how this bizarre story has unfolded.

You can start here:

The Braunstein Case - Specialized Rollyo Search of: NYDailyNews.com, NYPost.com, villagevoice.com, wcbstv.com, amw.com, gawker.com, jossip.com, crimelibrary.com, planethuff.com. Note: some of Braunstein's own writings from theVillage Voice will be included.

Crime blogger, Steve Huff, started writing about this case soon after the Halloween attack. He chronicles the many internet clues Braunstein has left as the story twists and turns:
The Hunt for Peter Braunstein

www.andyandedie.com [Peter Brausnstein's blog at archive.org]

Now every cop, journalist and gossip blogger in New York City along with America's Most Wanted is hot on Braunstein's trail:
people began to call police to tell them the sketch resembled 41 year-old Peter Braunstein. But when police went to find Braunstein to talk to him about what happened, he was nowhere to be found and the coincidences don't stop there.

It turns out, Braunstein was already on probation for stalking his ex-girlfriend. And that ex-girlfriend is an editor who works with the victim in this latest attack. What's more, Braunstein is a writer and journalist himself. He covered popular culture for The Village Voice and for "Women's Wear Daily".

In 2004, Braunstein wrote an off-broadway play titled, "Andy and Edie," about the tormented relationship between famed pop artist Andy Warhol and doomed socialite Edie Sedgwick. Police have not charged Braunstein in connection with this crime, but say they want to hear what he has to say about that Halloween night.

The New York Daily News reported yesterday that Braunstein got his fireman gear on eBay:
The prime suspect in the sadistic Halloween sex attack bought firefighter bunker gear on eBay shortly before the Chelsea assault, law enforcement sources revealed yesterday.

Investigators tracked down the online purchases in recent days - drawing the first substantial link between journalist Peter Braunstein and the Chelsea attack, in which a phony fireman assaulted a woman for nearly 13 hours, sources said.

"He went online and used his eBay account to buy bunker gear. It's a concrete connection between him and what was used in the crime," a law enforcement source said.

Update Nov. 15, 2005:
The Braunstein story has brought out the worst in one popular NYC gossip blog according to the New York Times' David Carr:
In a way, Mr. Braunstein represents the very sweet spot of Gawker: he is a media writer, he worked at a division of Condé Nast, his publication covered the fashion world and he was convicted of stalking someone else from the same company. The fact that Mr. Braunstein is likely reading over the shoulder of the blogs adds a significant tingle-factor. A habitué of both the Web and Manhattan media circles, he planted items in Page Six, the gossip column of the New York Post, and he once created a blog to vilify his ex-girlfriend (the same woman he pleaded guilty to stalking earlier this year). In another way, the story is the wrong one for the permanently jaded sensibility of sites like Gawker. Last Wednesday, for example, Gawker ran a poll about Mr. Braunstein's whereabouts.

"It's been nine days since former Women's Wear Daily and Village Voice writer Peter Braunstein allegedly raped a 34-year-old woman in her Chelsea home, and he's still at large. Where is Peter Braunstein? Having lunch with Col Allan and Martin Dunn? Working at the Condé Nast Cafeteria? Waiting outside Gawker HQ?"

A COUPLE of things are off here. Maybe it's minor, but Mr. Braunstein is not being sought for allegedly raping his victim. Secondly, this may be just the mainstream media guy in me, but it seems remarkably puerile to make jokes about his location when Fairchild Publication, a division of Condé Nast that publishes Women's Wear Daily, has posted guards in the company's office because he is suspected of drawing a target on people working there. In order to stick out from the clutter online - and Gawker does it extremely well, having had six million visitors in October - Web sites need to not just push the envelope, but rip it to shreds.

This has been a fast moving story so it's unclear if Mr. Carr's point about Braunstein's status regarding the rape investigation is still valid.

When Bloggers Joke About the Unfunny [NY Times, Nov. 14, 2005]
Peter Braunstein swiping his way to freedom [Jossip.com, Nov. 15, 2005]