Perhaps you, like us, read the Post's lengthy interview with fake fireman/sexual assailant Peter Braunstein this past weekend, in which he expresses regret about not killing his ex-girlfriend Jane Larkworthy and details a murder fantasy about New York reporter Vanessa Grigoriadis? And perhaps you, like us, asked yourself this: Isn't it kind of weird and creepy that the Post sent a reporter to spend three days at the Clinton Correctional Facility indulging the murderous woman-hating fantasies of an avowed psycho? And isn't it kind of strange and sick-making that they named the people he fantasizes about killing and furthermore put them in big puffy pull quotes? Wouldn't it be awful, if you were one of those people, to read someone's death fantasy about you in the paper?
And finally, of particular interest to us: Isn't this the paper that recently allowed a reporter to air his own weird rape fantasy about Grigoriadis? We decided to ignore that at the time, since it was such an obvious and egregious error in judgment. (One which others were happy to pointout rather forcefully.) Since there's no news hook to the most recent story (Braunstein is two years into his prison sentence which is scheduled to last another sixteen), we can only assume they're just exploiting the gruesome details for shock value. Which, well, duh, it's the Post; there's a reason people spend 25 cents on it. But at this point, we have to wonder if the Post's editors have spent so long playing up to their rough-hewn, hard-drinking image that they've lost all sense of perspective.
• Faux firefighter Peter Braunstein will be sentenced today at noon, and our short citywide nightmare shall be over. Oh, jeez, will he write a book in jail? Clemency! [amNY]
• The Matos-vs.-McGreevey matter keeps getting more colorful. Now Dina Matos is claiming her ex-husband is sabotaging not just her book sales but her charity work as well. Fellow fund-raisers snip that she's "taken her eye off the ball." [NYP]
• The New York State Restaurant Association is suing, mostly on behalf of fast-food franchises like McDonald's and Burger King, for the right not to disclose calorie count on the menus. They're crying Big Government. [Crain's NY]
• City Comptroller William Thompson is about to become housing activists' darling: He thinks the recent property-tax cut should trigger a rent freeze in stabilized apartments. [NYDN]
• And Eliot Spitzer is apparently ruining Albany's nightlife. Not through regulation, mind you; it's just that his staffers are more coffee-shop people than bar people. Figures. [NYT]
• This year's edition of the Puerto Rican Day blowback begins: activists say the police have overreached in their pre-parade gang sweep and wrongly jailed innocent bystanders. [NYDN]
• Peter Braunstein dusted off his dormant journalism skills to write a long leniency-seeking letter to the judge: "I implore you, your honor, to [ignore] the venomous tabloid media and its premodern understanding of mental illness." Hey Pete, "media" is plural. [NYP]
• The NYPD premieres a new siren, the Rattler (a low-frequency aural assault) to go with its storied repertoire: the Yelp, the Wail, the Hi-Lo etc. The Times article actually links to the sound samples for each. [NYT]
• Wednesday's weird confluence of NYC critter sightings — a hawk and a kestrel in Manhattan, a lamb tearing through the Broonx — made for the busiest day in Animal Control's history. [FoxNews]
• And, one more squeeze of the Sopranos-ending "controversy": James Gandolfini admits he has no idea if his character lives or dies. His career is a far more clear-cut case. [AP via amNY]
Our faith in the jury system is bolstered more each day. This just in from the AP:
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.
• The Times spots an interesting pattern in the turnover pattern at a Brooklyn community board: Each of the five members tossed out this week by Borough President Marty Markowitz was a vocal opponent of Atlantic Yards. [NYT]
• A fire broke out at a stable in Chestnut Ridge, about 30 miles north of the city, killing two horses and eight ponies. Yes, eight dead ponies. Good morning to you too. [amNY]
• Closing arguments have sounded in the Braunstein case, which went to the jury last night. The defense memorably insisted the hapless kidnapper's "brain broke," and the prosecution, well, didn't really disagree — but still found intent in his actions. [NYDN]
• The latest restaurant added to the lawsuit over minimum-wage violations: Jay-Z's 40/40 Club, which joins the allegedly ultrastingy B.B. King Bar and Grill (wait, are they now just targeting musician-owned places?) and others. [Metro NY]
• And five young Long Islanders had to be Tasered at Disney World; after getting caught spitting at patrons, the four teenage siblings and a friend had apparently decided on "jumping a cop" as the optimal next-step strategy. [NYP]
• The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the Fire Department for discriminating against minorities. A complaint filed in Brooklyn alleges that the firefighter recruitment exam is racially weighted and serves to "weed out" blacks and Latinos. [Metro]
• We've said it should take more than greening your mansion to make it into the news. This qualifies: An abandoned upstate steel mill has reinvented itself as a wind farm, a first for the Rust Belt. [NYT]
• Peter Braunstein didn't just want to kill Anna Wintour: He also spoke of heading down to New Orleans to head up a gang of angry Katrina survivors, according to a shrink. (Braunstein did briefly pretend to be a hurricane victim to get free food and shelter while on the run.) [amNY]
• Subway Superman Wesley Autrey left NBC's Deal or No Deal with $25 after picking the wrong suitcase (the other two held $1 million and $10,000, respectively). No X-ray vision, then. [NYDN]
• And there's some sort of conspiracy afoot among the Post, CBS, Amy Fisher, and Joey Buttafuoco to pretend that there's some juice left in the Long Island pair's story — enough, perhaps, to sustain a reality show. Let's not encourage any of them. [NYP]
• Thomson agreed to buy Reuters for $17 billion, creating the largest financial-news service and the first major rival to Bloomberg LP. [Reuters via CNNMoney]
• Murdoch offered the Bancrofts a seat on the News Corp. board and asked to meet with the family personally. After an internal conference call, the Bancrofts seem unmoved. [NYT]
• Ron Burkle bought the Primedia Enthusiast unit for $1.2 billion and now owns 70 titles like Dressage Today and Popular Hot Rodding. [NYP]
• Shoplifting usually doesn't get this dramatic: A man and a woman absconded from the Pretty Girl clothing store in Queens, carrying out a heap of dresses and hitting the security guard with their getaway van (he is in critical condition); they remain at large. [amNY]
• Bloomberg is in Albany pushing his environmental agenda; wouldn't you know it, there's "no apparent sense of urgency" to move on the proposals, and instead everyone just wants to talk about his gubernatorial or presidential run. [NYT]
• In the meantime, the Daily News is already making its readers pick Mike's successor: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly won the poll (with, um, 14 percent of the vote) on what seems like name recognition alone. [NYDN]
• According to his rambling diary — sorry, "personal manifesto" — Peter Braunstein was planning to kill Anna Wintour because she wouldn't return his phone calls. Oddly, if there are any journalists on the jury, this is the one prosecution revelation that may actually misfire. [NYP]
• And, for the 4,375th time: Kids, if you've done something totally awesome, like spray-painted a church with satanic symbols, don't brag about it on MySpace. It's public information, and then the big men from the Hate Crimes Unit will come and arrest you, like they did with four Long Island teens yesterday. [Newsday]
• The Port Authority has permission from New Jersey's acting governor to buy or build two new airports outside its normal area of operations. The first one will be Stewart International, 65 miles from New York; next up, Atlantic City? [NYDN]
• The plan to open a secular Arabic-studies school in Park Slope is nearly dead in the face of a massive and misguided outcry from parents and media who thought it would be a madrassa; the Sun, for instance, suggested we "break out the torches and surround City Hall to stop this monstrosity." [NYT]
• An eBay official is testifying in the Peter Braunstein case to list the items the crazed ex-journalist bid on in preparation for his crimes: firefighter gear, handcuffs, a gas mask, potassium nitrate, a Detroit cop badge, a FDNY sticker, and a camcorder. [WNBC]
• A unique surgery healed a Long Island 3-year-old from a case of the permanent giggles doctors dubbed the Joker Face. (It's actually a very rare form of epilepsy, caused by a tumor on the hypothalamus.) [Newsday]
• And we're shocked — shocked! — to report an intern scandal in the halls of power. Republican Mike Cole has become the first-ever assemblyman to get officially censured for spending a night in a female intern's apartment. Granted, he was merely watching the NHL playoffs there, with a bunch of other people present, but still. [NYP]
In the criminal-justice system, as you know, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups: the police, who investigate the crimes, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. Then there are the shyster defense lawyers, who try to convince juries that deranged and confessed torturers should get off; NTSB air-safety boards, who can't quite figure out who was flying the plane that crashed into the buildings; and Miss America, who entraps sexual predators. Yesterday was a busy day for all of them, and these are their stories. Da-dum.
• The mayor is visiting Tepoztlán, Mexico — the site of the slightly kooky, yet reportedly very effective, cash-for-good-behavior program that he's hoping to implement here. Hey, if it's good for Tepoztlán …NYT]
• NYU Student Council president Meredith Dolgin, 21, is in hot water for (a) tampering with elections, (b) using school funds for a personal trip, and (c) getting her own grandmother a paid speaking engagement at the university. [NYP]
• We may get to read more by former journalist Peter Braunstein. His journal has been deemed admissible at his trial, and it reportedly contains detailed plans for the costumed kidnapping and assault that made him infamous. [NYDN]
• It's not all luxury condos for Brooklyn: A blockwide affordable-housing complex will be built in Fort Greene, the city says. More than 300 apartments of the 434 total units will be subsidized. [amNY]
• And, here's an idea how to save Little Italy: high-end Italian boutiques! A neighborhood activist, working with the Medici Foundation, wants Armani, Fendi, et al, to give Mulberry a "Little Milan" tinge. Too bad they're all five blocks away, on West Broadway. [MetroNY]
It's time to check back with our favorite former Women's Wear Daily writer, Peter Braunstein. New accusations suggest that the serial harasser — currently awaiting trial for entering a colleague's apartment in firefighter's uniform, chloroforming and sexually assaulting her for over twelve hours — is even more serial than previously thought. The Daily News reports that the prosecutors have submitted a motion to bring "prior bad acts" into the jury trial. What are these bad acts? Bad indeed. According to the D.A.'s office:
• Braunstein "tormented" at least three other women, all of whom worked in the fashion industry and spurned his advances in one way or another, with threatening phone calls and e-mails.
• Even while on the run, he found time to call and harass an ex-girlfriend, telling her "If you testify … you will die." For an extra dose of crazy, consider the fact that Peter left that message with her assistant.
• On the lam, Braunstein found the darnedest ways to support himself. In one instance, in Cincinnati, he pretended to be (more?) mentally ill — ever the dutiful reporter, he noted in his diary that he was going for "really neurotic verging on manic-depressive psychotic" — to gain access to a psychiatrist's office. Once there, he slapped plastic cuffs on the M.D. and took his wallet, netting $200. When the loot ran out, he repeated the procedure on another man.
It may come as a shock to learn Braunstein's attorneys are planning to make full use of the insanity defense.
Halloween Fiend's Twisted Anger [NYDN]
Sex and the City: The Horror Movie [NYM]
In a move that shocks exactly no one, Peter Braunstein's lawyer has declared his client crazy. The lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, filed papers yesterday stating that Braunstein "lacked criminal responsibility by reason of mental disease or defect," according to today's Post article. Braunstein is charged with kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and sexual abuse for tricking a former co-worker into letting him into her Chelsea apartment on Halloween, then chloroforming her and sexually assaulting her for hours.
But here's the thing: Just because someone seems nuts doesn't mean he's legally insane. So we called bigshot defense attorney Ed Hayes — his clients range from the Mafia cops to Richard Johnson — for some perspective. Does he think this gambit will work?
Peter Braunstein, New York's best-known stalker, fake firefighter, alleged rapist, alleged arsonist, and self-stabber (and, let's not forget, lousy journalist), is not known for his willingness to cede the point on anything. (Feast your eyes on his legendary e-mail exchange with a Rolling Stone editor). So today's news comes as a pleasant surprise of sorts: Braunstein has pleaded guilty to violating his probation.
Probation? Indeed. On a previous charge. If you're struggling to keep track of the myriad crimes, misdemeanors, and lunacy involved here, you're not alone. After the jump, our handy timeline, pulled together from Vanessa Grigoriadis's December 2005 Braunstein profile and the latest news reports.