Frantic Cry For Help

The woman who was drugged and sexually assaulted by fashion writer Peter Braunstein, who burst into her apartment in fake firefighter gear on Halloween night 2005, was so traumatized after the attack that she was afraid to let real cops in real uniforms in to help her.

"Help me! Please!'' she can be heard shouting on a 911 tape played for the jury in Braunstein's kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery trial in Manhattan state court.

"There are people in uniform standing out there,'' she sobs. "But I don't know if they're police. I don't know. I don't trust anybody.

"Please help me. The guy that was in here had a police badge. He had a fire uniform. He had a face mask. He had everything.

"I'm so scared. No! No! No!"

The heart-wrenching distress call was the centerpiece of yesterday's courtroom testimony, the AP reports.

Asked by the operator what her attacker looked like, she said he was wearing a mask.

"He had a gun. And a knife. He had a video camera, and he taped me when I was naked! Oh! Oh! Please! Please! Send somebody quick!"

Braunstein has pled not guilty but admits to the most of the crimes -- acknowledging that on Halloween night in 2005, the former Women's Wear Daily scribe, dressed as a firefighter, started two small fires outside the 34-year-old woman's New York apartment and then banged on her door to "rescue'' her.

When she opened the door, he drugged her and sexually tormented her for 13 hours as real firefighters put out the blaze

And Braunstein's lawyers have adopted a risky defense, claiming paranoid schizophrenia crippled his decision-making process and destroyed his ability to form intent to commit the crime.

Also on the stand yesterday was Jeannia Robinette, the victim's best friend, who rushed to the apartment after her friend was able to by unknotting with her teeth the nylon ropes that bound her.

"She had burns on her face, her neck,'' Robinette told the jury. "Blood marks on her wrists…She was hysterical. She wouldn't let me let [the real New York City policemen] in…She said 'Don't open the door. That's him! He had a badge and a uniform. It's him! It's him in the police uniform!"

If convicted, Braunstein could face up to 25 years in prison.

What's being challenged is whether Braunstein had the mental capacity to form the intent to commit the crime -- a risky and relatively new legal defense being proferred in one courtroom after the next.

"His brain just broke,'' defense attorney Celia Gordon told jurors on Monday during opening arguments.

But prosecutors argue that Braunstein meticulously planned the attack, and was sharp enough to elude a massive NYPD manhunt for six weeks before he was finally spotted on the campus of the Unversity of Memphis in Tennessee by someone who had seem him featured on "America's Most Wanted."

"He felt the world had turned its back on him," and he "devised a well-designed plan to get attention,'' assistant Manhattan District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal told jurors on Monday.

On Monday, Braunstein's victim described in graphic detail the nightmarish Halloween attack.

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