Judge dismisses statements from N.Y. writer captured in Memphis

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The judge in the trial of a writer accused of sexually abusing a woman on Halloween night 2005 said Tuesday he will bar most statements the defendant made to police during three days in custody.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber said he found that the only voluntary statement Peter Braunstein made was to a New York detective after the two of them were introduced to each other.

Over the three days after Braunstein was arrested on the University of Memphis campus on Dec. 16, 2005, he told the detective, Josh Ulan, how he survived while a fugitive and talked about the woman he's accused of attacking, a former colleague at Women's Wear Daily.

Ulan testified during a pretrial hearing that Braunstein spoke voluntarily.

But the judge said, "The prosecution did not meet its burden of showing that the subsequent statements were voluntarily given." He said that immediately after the defendant told Ulan he wanted "to do the whole lawyer thing," the detective should have read Braunstein his Miranda rights against self-incrimination.

The judge, who issued his pretrial rulings just minutes before the first prospective jurors arrived for Braunstein's trial, called the defendant's days of chattering "the longest non-Mirandized statement in the history of criminal law."

Braunstein, 43, is accused of pretending to be a firefighter so he could get into the apartment of the 34-year-old former co-worker, who prosecutors say he sexually abused for 13 hours starting Halloween night 2005.

Prosecutors say Braunstein wore a firefighter's outfit and set a fire in the hallway outside the woman's apartment before banging on her door and demanding entry. He was on the run for six weeks afterward before campus police captured him.

Braunstein has pleaded not guilty to arson, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, sexual abuse and assault charges.

In a ruling damaging to the defense, the judge said he will allow the prosecution to present the contents of the backpack the defendant was wearing when he was captured.

The backpack contained Braunstein's journals, in which, the judge said, he details a lot of his activity and gives indications of his thinking before, during and after the attack of which he is accused.

Robert C. Gottlieb, Braunstein's lawyer, says he will present evidence that his client had an undiagnosed mental illness at the time of the alleged attack on the woman and therefore should not be held criminally responsible for it.

Prosecutors say the journals show that Braunstein carried out the attack with intent and planning. Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal said he canceled an appointment with his probation officer a week before the attack, falsely saying he had to keep a medical appointment.

The first pool of about 100 prospective jurors entered the courtroom around midday. About 70 of those left when the judge they were excused if they couldn't remain with the trial for five or six weeks.

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