NEW YORK (AP) _ A man who dressed in firefighter's gear to bluff his way into a co-worker's apartment on Halloween night and then sexually tortured her over 13 hours was sentenced Monday to 20 years to life in prison.
Peter Braunstein, 43, stood before the judge and provided his take about what happened, saying he had a death wish as he carried out the attack in Manhattan and other crimes while on the lam in Ohio and Tennessee.
``I just thought I would see America and die; you know, have the cops shoot me to death,'' Braunstein said. He was convicted in May for kidnapping, robbing and sexually abusing the ex-colleague at Fairchild publications, parent of Women's Wear Daily and W magazine.
Dressed as a firefighter, Braunstein set fires in the hallway outside his victim's Manhattan apartment as a ruse to gain access inside her home on Halloween 2005. He then drugged her, tied her to a bed, stripped her naked, and videotaped her.
Braunstein's attorney argued that his client was so mentally ill that he was incapable of forming the intent to commit the crime and therefore should not be held criminally responsible. The defense showed jurors brain scans to prove their point that Braunstein was mentally ill.
State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber acknowledged that ``any sentence I impose on this profoundly disturbed man may result in his dying in jail.''
But he added: ``No rational system could view this situation in any way that would resolve this defendant of guilt.''
During the trial, jurors heard lurid testimony, including Braunstein's musings about sending Vogue editor Anna Wintour to a hell guarded by rats. They also heard excerpts from Braunstein's journals, in which he described posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim to get free meals as he wandered around Tennessee.
``I think the sentence was very harsh. It was like he killed somebody,'' Braunstein's father, Alberto Braunstein, said after the sentencing.
But defense attorney Robert Gottlieb said: ``The judge is to be commended for not bowing to the screaming tabloid headlines.'' He noted that Farber could have imposed the maximum sentence of 25 years to life but didn't.
Gottlieb said Monday that he would appeal the conviction.
Last week, in a nine-page letter sent to the judge asking for leniency, Braunstein described planning the crime _ conceding a key prosecution point _ while arguing that he was mentally ill. In his letter, he wrote that his mental illness ``casts a lingering shadow over the case that leniency could help dispel.''