Brunhammer v. Wesley
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 4/18/16. (sar)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
PAUL M. BRUNHAMMER,
STEVEN WESLEY, Warden,
Civil Action No. 16-24-GMS
Presently pending before the court is petitioner Paul M. Brunhammer's "petition for writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241," in which he contends he is a pre-trial detainee
being held illegally in Delaware because: ( 1) his speedy trial rights have been violated; (2) his
Delaware charges have been pending over five years and no attorney has been assigned to his
case; (3) his due process rights have been denied by the State of Delaware's failure to promptly
file a detainer with the State of New Jersey; and (4) the State of Delaware violated his rights
under the First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to transfer
him to the State of Delaware to answer the charges. (D.I. 3 at 11-14) Brunhammer has also filed
a motion to dismiss his Delaware indictment asserting the same four grounds that are set forth in
his petition. (D.1. 12)
In February 2010, Brunhammer was arrested in New Jersey on charges of aggravated
sexual assault, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, terroristic threats, and obscenity
for persons under 18. (D.I. 4 at 61) Brunhammer subsequently entered a guilty plea to
aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to seven years of incarceration in a New Jersey
In May 2010, while Brunhammer was facing charges in New Jersey, New Castle County
Police began an investigation into the sexual assault of a nine-year old female in Delaware. (D.I.
4 at 61) According to the female, Brunhammer had inserted a finger in her rectum and described
numerous sexual acts to her in detail. In October 2010, Brunhammer was indicted in Delaware
on two counts of second degree rape and one count of sexual solicitation of a child. When the
Rule 9 Warrant was issued, Brunhammer was already serving his sentence for his New Jersey
convictions. Id. at 62.
On August 31, 2015, Brunhammer filed in the Delaware Superior Court a motion to
dismiss his indictment due to the delay between the indictment and first appearance. (D.I. 4 at
62) The Superior Court denied the motion on December 7, 2015, holding that Brunhammer's
speedy trial rights were not violated because the the five year delay was solely attributable to
Brunhammer's incarceration in New Jersey. (D.I. 4 at 97-9) Brunhammer appealed, and the
Delaware Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because it was
interlocutory. Brunhammer v. State, 2016 WL 611822, at* 1 (Del. Feb. 12, 2016).
LEGAL ST AND ARDS
A district court judge may summarily dismiss a habeas application "if it plainly appears
from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief." Rule 4, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254. As a general rule, a federal district court can only
entertain a habeas petition in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State
court, and a petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief unless he has exhausted state
remedies for his habeas claims. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) and (b)(l)(A); see also Rules 1- 2, 28
U.S.C. foll. § 2254. Although a state prisoner can challenge his pre-trial custody on speedy trial
grounds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, a federal court cannot exercise jurisdiction at the pre-trial
stage without exhaustion of state remedies, unless extraordinary circumstances are present. See
Moore v. De Young, 515 F.2d 437, 443 (3d Cir. 1975); Braden v. JO'h Judicial Circuit Court of
Kentucky, 4 l 0 U.S. 484, 493 (1973)(noting that habeas corpus review is not available to
adjudicate the merits of an affirmative defense to a state criminal charge prior to a state court
conviction, but that, in special circumstances, habeas corpus is the appropriate vehicle by which
to demand enforcement of a state's constitutional obligation to provide a speedy trial).
Additionally, if no exceptional circumstances are present and the petitioner is seeking to litigate
the merits of a constitutional defense to a criminal charge, "the district court should exercise its
pre-trial habeas jurisdiction only if [the] petitioner makes a special showing of the need for such
adjudication and has exhausted state remedies" by presenting his claim to the highest state
court." Moore, 515 F.2d at 443.
After reviewing Brunhammer' s petition, the court concludes that relief is not warranted.
First, it is clear from the face of the pending petition that Brunhammer is not in custody pursuant
to a Delaware state court judgment because he has not yet undergone his Delaware criminal trial
for two counts of second degree rape and one count of sexual solicitation of a child. Second,
although Brunhammer asserts a speedy trial violation, he is improperly attempting to abort a state
criminal proceeding because he seeks the dismissal of his indictment and immediate release.
(D.I. 12) Finally, although Brunhammer has presented his instant arguments to the Delaware
Supreme Court, nothing in his petition demonstrates a special need for the court to adjudicate the
matter at this juncture and interfere "in the normal functioning of state criminal processes."
Duran v. Thomas, 393 F. App'x 3, 4 (3d Cir. 2010). Accordingly, the court will summarily
dismiss without prejudice Brunhammer' s § 2241 petition.
During the pendency of this proceeding, Brunhammer filed a motion to appoint counsel
(D.I. 6) and a motion to dismiss his indictment (D.I. 12). Having concluded that Brunhammer's
§ 2241 is subject to summarily dismissal, the court will dismiss both motions as moot.
For the reasons set forth above, the court will summarily dismiss without prejudice
Brunhammer's § 2241 petition for federal habeas relief. The court will also decline to issue a
certificate of appealability because Brunhammer has failed to make a "substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); 3d Cir. L.A.R. 22.2 (2011); United
States v. Eyer, 113 F.3d 470 (3d Cir. 1997). A separate order will be entered.
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