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Kidnap Victim Recounts His Ordeal in Pit : Crime: N.Y. executive says he tried writing his autobiography in his mind during his 12 days in captivity. And, sometimes, he just wanted to die.

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Sometimes he stared up out of his earthen prison and cursed U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno for not sending help. Sometimes he wrote his autobiography in his mind.

And sometimes he just wanted to die.

“I begged my captors to take me out and shoot me and leave me on the road where my family could find my body,” Harvey Weinstein recalled.

The 68-year-old millionaire executive, who was kidnaped and held captive in a dark pit for 12 days, emerged in public Wednesday, recounting his ordeal to a packed news conference.

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Weinstein, who lost about 17 pounds during the ordeal, kept pulling up the waistband of his slacks during the news conference. He told reporters the suit had been made for him about a month ago.

Gray stubble still covered his face, but he was a welcome sight to family members and detectives who greeted him with hugs and applause.

“It’s said that events don’t make the man, they reveal him,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said during his introduction of Weinstein.

Weinstein, a native New Yorker who made his fortune manufacturing tuxedos, was abducted at knifepoint Aug. 4 in the parking lot of his favorite diner. When he overheard his captor’s plans to demand a multimillion-dollar ransom, “I told them they had the wrong guy,” he said.

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“I added up my checking account and thought I was going to be a little short,” he joked.

Blinded by goggles, he was spirited to a secluded ravine off a Manhattan highway and dropped into an abandoned, eight-foot-deep utility shaft. His abductors shackled him, them covered the top of the hole with a metal plate.

From the start, the former Marine and avid tennis player said he “knew the key was my mind and not my body.”

As hours, then days passed, he drew on his World War II combat experience, when he spent long stretches of time in pitch-black foxholes.

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He said he rationed the bananas, plums and water that his captors dropped down through a small shaft, eating as little as possible to avoid filling the hole with excrement. He calculated the passage of time by listening to the highway traffic patterns.

Weinstein also started “the greatest autobiography never written,” he said.

“I would start each session with ‘This is the verbal autobiography of Harvey Weinstein: Age 6,’ and it was astounding the memories that would come back.”

But after about a week, he said, despair--and thoughts of death--began to set in.

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At one low point, Weinstein said, he began “yelling at Janet Reno to get more people on this case. I was not very kind, because I felt she was not giving enough support.”

But above ground, the search was frantic.

A small army of police detectives and FBI agents worked around the clock, monitoring phone negotiations between members of Weinstein’s family and the kidnapers, who demanded $3 million.

Finally, on Monday morning, Weinstein’s son delivered the cash. The man who collected it, Fermin Rodriguez, was trailed and arrested by plainclothes detectives, authorities said. In all, three people have been arrested and charged with first-degree kidnaping.

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Rodriguez, who was an employee at Weinstein’s tuxedo factory, helped lead detectives to his boss’s prison.

By then, Weinstein said, he was in “the deepest depths of despair.”

Suddenly, he heard the calls of detectives. He returned the calls, and soon saw daylight as the steel plate was removed.

At the news conference, Weinstein re-created the moment of freedom, reaching out to clutch the hand of the man who pulled him to safety, Det. William Mondore.

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“Grabbing his hand through this little aperture” and being “pulled from my prison was an experience that very few humans are ever given,” he said.

“I knew I was home. I knew I was safe. And I knew God had smiled down on me.”

Weinstein, who was kidnaped after he left the diner where he eats breakfast every morning, said the experience will not make him change his habits.

“I can’t permit fear to govern my life,” he said. “I will walk proudly on the streets of New York. I will not look over my shoulder every 30 seconds.”

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