Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Journalist's trial delayed by possible psychiatric defense

SCARY Peter Braunstein, accused of a bizarre Manhattan Halloween night sexual assault, has been given two months to decide on his defense

AP , NEW YORK

A writer accused of posing as a firefighter and sexually abusing a Manhattan woman on Halloween night last October will get nearly two extra months to decide whether he will present a psychiatric defense at trial, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Peter Braunstein, 41, an aspiring playwright and journalist who once wrote for Women's Wear Daily, has pleaded not guilty to an indictment that charges him with arson, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, sexual abuse and assault related to the attack.

Braunstein was given extra time to decide whether he is going to claim mental problems after his lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said he is still investigating the case.

Gottlieb said he had not yet asked for a psychiatric examination for Braunstein.

State Supreme Court Justice Micki Scherer, sitting in for the trial judge, Justice James Yates, told Gottlieb to return March 23 to receive Yates' decisions on defense motions and to report whether his client will offer a psychiatric defense at trial.

30 days norm

Defendants normally have 30 days after arraignment on an indictment to tell the court whether they will claim a psychiatric defense. Gottlieb said that by March 23 he will have had 50 additional days.

Braunstein, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, sat quietly during the five-minute proceeding.

The knife wounds on the right side of his neck, which he inflicted on himself as he was about to be arrested in Memphis, Tennessee, in December, appear to have healed.

Braunstein is accused of breaking into a New York woman's apartment on Oct. 31 while dressed as a city firefighter. Authorities say the woman was overpowered, tied up and sexually assaulted for up to 12 hours. He was captured on the University of Memphis campus after six weeks on the run.

The attack and subsequent manhunt drew heavy media coverage in New York, and Braunstein was featured on the national TV show America's Most Wanted.

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