The widely publicized case of Peter Braunstein, who is accused of a vicious Halloween sex attack despite having been sentenced just seven weeks before for subjecting an ex-girlfriend to a prolonged campaign of terror, prompted New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly to wonder why he was at large at the time of the crime. The fault lies not with judges, prosecutors, or police, but with the New York State penal code, Daly says. Responding to the uproar after two fatal shootings of New York police officers, Gov. George Pataki is calling a special legislative session to revise gun laws. Daly says the next order of business should be to amend the penal code so people like Braunstein cannot terrorize a woman for month after month and be sentenced to not a minute in jail.
Braunstein taped his ex-girlfriend to a chair and menaced her with a large kitchen knife. He subsequently bombarded her with threatening and harassing phone messages at home, each five minutes long. No individual deed amounted to more than a misdemeanor. Braunstein was sentenced to five days’ community service and he “sauntered from criminal court no more chastised than if he had hopped a turnstile,” Daly says. A pending proposal would amend the penal code to outlaw cyber-stalking such as Braunstein committed against his ex-girlfriend.