Peter Braunstein, WWD Writer Turned Tabloid Monster, Still Has Issues

In an exclusive excerpt from the ebook <em>Speak of the Devil,</em> Braunstein's former colleague sits down with the 'Fire Fiend.'

Peter’s lengthy prison sentence, 41 years to life, was based to some extent on a legal technicality. The most serious charge against him, kidnapping, applies in New York State only after a victim is held forcibly for 12 hours. Peter remained in the woman’s apartment for 13, though he spent a good deal of that time watching TV and eating snacks.

He has no plans to appeal his sentence, he said, nor the slightest desire ever to leave prison. In fact, he may have assured that he would die behind bars when he stood trial in Cincinnati for his armed robbery of a psychiatrist while on the run. Prosecutors negotiated a plea bargain that would have meant the terms would have been served concurrently, but the deal fell apart when Peter gave an interview to the New York Daily News in which he described the local authorities as “so Dukes of Hazzard” and insisted that if ever released he would “go on a homicidal rampage.” The judge sentenced him to 23 years, to be served after his time in New York is over.

I asked him why he wanted to spend his life in prison. “Like I really want to hit the streets again when I’m 65? Yeah, that’s a good life,” he said. “In this economy. Fast forward to then, where you got like 27 percent unemployment and people are going to be hunting squirrels for food.”

This story is excerpted from Speak of the Devil, an e-book available at the Kindle Singles store for Kindle and iPad, and at for Nook.



  1. Anonymous says:


  2. How entirely without courage walks Aaron Gell in penning the story of his former colleague. Journalism 101, 102 and 103 have been trampled on with seemingly utter abandon. There is no justification for reporting on, about or with  a convicted felon that the reporter has a connection with. That is the bottom and only line. There is no “new” journalism, only the old school of integrity and separation of association.

  3. Brysonphoto says:

    If you don’t know the two are connected–does it make any difference that it is a valid work of art? Far better than the endless vomit of TV crime dramas–here is a real look into the mind of a sociopath and human nature at its freakiest. Perhaps more interesting because the criminal is intelligent and has some insight into his own dilemma. That’s what real journalism is about, and that the two were connected might be the only access to the story.

  4. Brysonphoto – Thank you for your considered response. The non-fiction genre, under which journalism falls, must be absolute in its fidelity to the truth. It is black and white writing and anchored by footnotes, accreditation, annotations and the like.

    Peter Braunstein was born with a soundbite burping out of his mouth. He is a sociopath and true to form would readily speak to any reporter, would let anyone gain “access” as you have mentioned.

    I’m not sure why the author of this piece would have a reader believe it to be balanced or ethical once the connection is made between Aaron Gell and Braunstein. The real disconnect is why his editors would allow it, and as such, spur Gell to publish it with XYZ. I won’t name where it is because I’m not looking to knock down another author.

    Chris Roberts


    1. Aaron Gell says:

      Chris, I appreciate your point of view, but I think it’s a little simplistic. To me journalism is about the truth, and truth has many layers and is not arrived at by a single route. My point of view as someone who knew Peter is no less valid or deserving of consideration that that of a reporter who didn’t. Perhaps more to the point, this piece is an excerpt from a much larger story that considers this issue in real depth. I’d urge you to read that and would love to hear what you think of it.

      1. Aaron, I think a fundemental tenet of journalism is to be impartial. That’s not to say you haven’t been, but you have stirred up the question of propriety by conducting an interview with a former co-worker. I know this will sound odd, but I rather believe that you and Braunstein would have worked better in a creative non-fiction genre, in the vein of Capote and killer Smith from “In Cold Blood.”

        That said, I want to be fair and will read your larger work and always one for full disclosure, my work (fiction), is available where Mr. Gell’s volume can be found.